Urhobo Historical Society

THE BABANGIDA YEARS:

Nigeria's Darkest Moment, 1985-9

By Sam Abbd Israel
11th October 1999


Source:
Subject:         THE DARKEST MOMENT, 1985-1998
   Date:         Sun, 24 Feb 2002 23:14:51 -0000
   From:         "SAM ABBD ISRAEL" <samabbdisrael@msn.com>
     To:         "ABDULRAZAQUE BELLO-BARKINDO" <razaquebarkindobello@hotmail.com>, "BOLAJI ABDULLAHI" <babdullahi@hotmail.com >,         "D.S. DAUDA" <ddsulaiman@yahoo.com >, "PETER EKEH" <ppekeh@acsu.buffalo.edu>, "M.O. Ené" <Egbedaa@aol.com>, "WILLIAM ETIM-BASSEY" <william_etim-bassey@canada.com>

“Are you not ashamed that you give your attention toacquiring

as much money as possible and similarly reputation and honour, 

and give no thought to truth and understanding and the perfection 

of your soul?….I spend all my time going about trying to persuade you, 

young and old to make your first and chief concern not for your bodies

nor for your possessions, but for the highest welfare of your souls ….

Wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and 

every other blessings, both to the individual and to the state” 
 

Socrates1
 
 

Introduction

This is a discourse about the saddest and darkest moment in the history of the Nigeria state. This moment has left the country and the people in ruins and in tatters. A state can be in ruin after a natural or man-made physical disaster has occurred. This type of ruin is easily visible in the fallen trees, dilapidated or burnt down or collapsed buildings, in the water flooded streets and farmlands, etc. This kind of ruin is easy to repair when fund and other relevant resources are available. However, in this booklet we shall be arguing that the type of ruin facing the Nigeria nations is at the spiritual and psychological level. This type of ruin is very difficult to manage because it is not visible to all and sundry but only to the trained eyes. We can therefore safely say that the ruin of the Nigeria nations is in two dimensions - the physical and the psychological. 

The telltale signs of the physical ruin can be seen in the failing and failed governments, public institutions, infrastructures and services. The evidence is visible in the shaky state of the national economy, the low level of production in all sectors, the collapse of manufacturing industries as a result of better returns on currency speculation, the increasing number of failed banks and the ever mounting national debts. It can also be seen in the national disgrace and shame that come from the ever-continuous rescheduling programme for debt services with Paris and London Clubs of creditors, The International Monitoring Fund and The World Banks. These are the touching macroeconomic realities that have translated into the dehumanised high level of socio-economic poverty among the general mass of the people. 

Unfortunately, the psychological or the spiritual ruins are more intense. This ruin is found in the high level of despondency, powerlessness, unhappiness, social malaise and upheavals. The sociological and psychological symptoms are seen in the high rates of crime, juvenile delinquency and youth unemployment. They are visible in the permanent haggard lines of pain and sadness on the faces of Nigerian that tell stories of total hopelessness of life for a greater number of the population. The symptoms are visible in the lack of uplifting ambition even among the educated Nigerians and their easy lure into a fairy tale dream that is perpetually seeking economic success through fraudulent business activities. This is the ruin of the Nigeria-state that every Nigerian, except the few in the corridors of power, can describe as a vivid living experience. The ruin captured in the overwhelming and ever paralysing fear of the future, of poverty, of joblessness, of hunger, of homelessness, of health problems, of uncaring government and of its cruel agents. The ruin that is almost physically visible in the death of trust in the polity and in the all-encompassing reign of distrust that has made economic co-operation and social cohesion increasingly difficult in every sphere of human interaction. 

Every Nigerian is aware that business partners, bank managers, clerks, civil servants, public office holders, politicians, military officers, traditional rulers, religious leaders and even family members can no longer be trusted. Although, trust is now recognised by eminent economists as an invaluable social capital for any progressive and efficient economy yet it is the scarcest commodity in Nigeria. Several studies and researches have demonstrated that economic and social groups achieve more economically when members trust each other. However, Nigeria, under thirteen years, has become a classic case of a society where everybody is for himself and only God for us all. The degree of distrust has become congenital to the extent that most Nigerians have since stopped trusting God as well. 

This is evident in the Nigerian habit that puts God in a safe compartment. Under this arrangement only Friday or Sunday is the visiting holy day whereas other days are taken as free for all kinds of ungodly heinous engagements. It is not uncommon to find that a lot of the professing or practising religious fundamentalists in Nigeria have been associated with crimes, beastly and cruel acts of torture, killing, fleecing, lying and manipulation of fellow citizens for money and for high positions. The pursuit of material success over and above every other laudable virtue has become deep-rooted among all cadres of Nigerians. These are the cankerworms that have eaten deep into the heart of a state. Nigerians are now possessed by a delusion of grandeur where everybody has become obsessed with the pursuit of vainglory and vulgar success. Every Nigerian is desirous to ‘make it’ and to have a ‘good life’ by hook or by crook. This second ruin is the most difficult to diagnose and to cure because it is hidden in the mind. It is the ruin of the soul, the force of all life. A ruined soul translates into a dead life. It has left many Nigerians as living corpses.

The Institutional Ruins

The gradual decay of the institutions of governments and civil societies that started with the advent of the colonial governments in Nigeria was finally completed between 1985 and 1998 during the regimes of Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abachi. These two military administrations (even though some elite stalwarts still like to call them governments) succeeded in putting to rest any ray of hope of an institution that could be called government in Nigeria as is known in the rest of the world. These two administrations never pretended to believe in any higher principle or in any civilised ideology on which the structure and practice of a government are built. These military administrations were deliberately run at its best as a benevolent authoritarian regime and at its worst (which unfortunately was more than at its best) as a deranged despotic regime. 

These two men toppled the alarmingly despotic, wickedly moralistic and a no-nonsense administration of Buhari-Idiagbon junta that came into power after the civil government of Shehu Shagari was sacked. The Buhari-Idiagbon era was an administration that adopted the extreme of a strange kind of fundamentalism. They pursued their own kind of moral beliefs without a care whatsoever about the views, feelings and supports of the members of the society they were trying to save. They expected the society to follow them, not because they have persuaded and convinced the people on the sense and worth of these beliefs and actions but simply because they have decreed it. They couched their administration around coercion and they spiked every official pronouncement of the state with large stuffing of ‘immediate action’, ‘drastic action’ and ‘ruthless action’. They surely put the fear of gun-power on everybody. It was a regime that saw smiling or laughing in society as synonymous to indiscipline. However, Babangida-Abacha junta sacked this administration to the delight of all Nigerians. 

Although this singular ‘patriotic’ act of saving a whole nation from the jaw of a manic-government was commendable, it has never stopped many analysts from asking and wanting to know the true reason for this coup d'état. There were many stories from the grapevine but these are yet to be confirmed by Nigerians who were in the inner circle of this regime. This writer as well as many Nigerians is still keen to find answers to the following questions: Is it true that this particular coup was conducted to forestall a purge of known drug barons in the Buhari-Idiagbon administration? Is it true that the coup was planned with the connivance of a ‘big civilian money-bag’ aided by the Saudi Government? Why did Idiagbon keep to himself and why did he refuse to share confidential information on what he knew about this plot until his death? Why did Buhari accept to serve with one of the accomplices that removed him with ignominy from power? Answers to these questions will definitely unveil the hydra-headed monster of political power-game operating in Nigeria. It will reveal the deadly callous liaison and the nature of cash and power relationships that bind the elites of Nigeria together regardless of tribe or tongue. There is definitely more than meets the eye in the profitable symbiotic relationship found between the civilian moneybags and the military gunslingers. Recently, Brigadier Samuel Ogbemudia revealed that some Nigerians outside the military sponsored even the first coup d’état led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu.

Sadly, the happiness of Nigerians was short lived. It did not take too long before Nigerians detected that they have merely exchanged an open, non-smiling despotic regime with a sly but smiling despotic regime. It was a regime that could be compared to the fable of the house mice, the type that bites the sleeping owner of the house and simultaneously sweetens the wound with its cool breath. The military administration of 1985-1998 bites every Nigerian and inflicted deadly wounds on all except their immediate families and their sycophantic cohorts. Moreover, the deformed institutions they inherited were further bastardised beyond redemption. The institution of government in particular received the deadliest blow of all. 

Of Government 
A government is the political arrangement deliberately set up or that naturally evolved for the administration of a society. It is the constituted body saddled with the protection of life; with the making and maintenance of law and order; and with the onerous mandate of ensuring that the welfare of every member of the society is unimpaired under any circumstances. Governments are often differentiated or qualified as either democratic or undemocratic. The manner and nature of the coming into being of a government often determines the tag or label that it eventually carries. A government is democratic when the sovereign people that constitute such society agreed on the principles, methods and modes of operation of their government. Under such a government the people are closely involved in the processes that appoint or select or elect or sack the members of their government who are often mandated with the honourable task of playing the part of any of the following: law-maker, law-giver, law-enforcer, law-protector, law-reviewer, law-interpreter, and policy and programme initiator, designer and executioner, etc. 
On the other hand, a government is undemocratic when the members of the government are not appointed or selected or elected and cannot be sacked by the people but are of those who forcefully seized the rein of political power and who commandeered the institutions of government by virtue of possessing fire-arms. As a result of this armed procedure, this type of government does not have to account to anybody in the polity. In fact, the personalities involved have become the sovereign and the law as well while the people without their consents have become the subjects. This group of saviours are often driven by a large dose of egotistical convictions. They are the types that believe (some sincerely) that all political problems can be resolved by a magic wand assisted, of course, by a sizeable chunk of untested immeasurable dosage of naked power and brutal barbaric force. They are, in short, armed gangsters and uniformed bandits merely pretending to be civilised and patriotic.

However, democratic government as popularised since the American War of Independence has come to be accepted as a tripartite arrangement of a Legislative branch, an Executive branch and a Judiciary branch. These three arms of government are adjudged as fundamentally equal in rank, distinctly separate in function and crucially interdependent in operation and goals. Unfortunately, during the era under discourse, the killing of legislative arm of government was the first act to be performed at the inception of military administration. Although the judiciary was spared from the guillotine but its legs were amputated and its brains were brutally sucked out. Hence, as a disabled judiciary, it needed the military administration for mobility as well as intelligence. It could not walk unless carried. It could not function unless programmed and authorised on what it should do and how it should be done. Any figment of independence left untouched by the Suspension Decree of the Constitution was adequately taken care of as at when necessary by Ouster Clauses in every decree manufactured by the spin lawyers. As a result of the death of the legislative arm of government and the near-death but paralysed JudiciaryNigeria was left with an all-powerful Executive Arm of Government.

You can trust the ingenuity of our spin lawyers that quickly and cleverly divided this Executive Arm into two councils. One transformed into the Armed Forces Ruling Council while the other remained as the Executive Council. The Armed Forces Ruling Council drew its members from the Heads of the three Armed Forces plus the Inspector General of Police. They were ably supported and assisted by Military Commandants of Garrisons and some carefully handpicked trusted military officers. This body became the lawmaker, lawgiver, law-protector, law-reviewer, and law-interpreter of the Federation. These men (no woman) became the supreme intelligence, supreme morality, and supreme know-alls for the country. These twenty-something strong odd men became the unquestionable and infallible Supreme Beings of Nigeria. They ably and proficiently took care of national economics, finance, business, commerce, industrial manufacturing, science and technology, mines and power, and every inconceivable social, political and economic problem. These extra-ordinary brilliant and uniquely versatile men found answers from their military hats to every issue that bedevilled the Nigeria nation during this period to the satisfaction of no one but themselves. 

It should be mentioned that some of these members also doubled as Ministers of Federal Ministries. What a super-human sacrifice these patriots were called upon to make for their fatherland? This, to me, is the greatest slap of insult ever inflicted on the collective intelligence of a 100 million people. Looking back, this writer can now say with shame and regret that we were like a people under a magic spell. How could we have been so gullible as to believe that these illiterate lots were capable of finding answers to the myriad problems facing Nigeria? These are men that were unable to read or to comprehend a ten-page memo being saddled with thousands and thousands of pages of Memorandum from every Ministry week in and week out. These supermen were expected to study the memos, analyse them and make decisions for law, policy guidelines and implementation costs and schedules. Yet, these are men who ended up as soldiers because of their hatred for books and learning. Even as these lines are being written, this writer still feels very ashamed and very uncomfortable to realise that I am a Nigerian and that all my compatriots and I were dutifully blind to these injustice and rape of intelligence. It is unforgivable that the host of Nigerian neglected the few that realised it and who shouted themselves hoarse. These few men and women of conscience were left unsupported and unprotected and were therefore allowed to be reaped apart by the wolves in khaki clothing.

The second Council, which is now the Executive arm of government, was made up of Cabinet Ministers and Directors-General (Permanent Secretaries). This was the co-ordinating and policy making body for all Federal Government Departments, Parastatals, Boards and Commissions. At the beginning, this body used to meet once a week to discuss Memoranda submitted by each Ministry that needed legislative backing or approval of government. Babangida or Abacha was the Chairman of these two bodies and all the three Heads of Armed Forces were also members. It did not take too long before the Executive Council went into a permanent recess because it burnt itself out by work overload. The coast then became truly clear for the unchallenged sovereign rule of Babangida and later of Abacha. Each favoured Minister would then seek the ear and eye of ‘The President’ for a unilateral approval on any Memo or action of his Ministry. This method was adopted from 1989 upward. 

This procedure of seeking the private ear of the ‘president’ allowed the Minister of Health to successfully negotiate an approval for a special salary for medical doctors. This special salary threw the Ministry of Health into unhealthy pandemonium because other medical professionals demanded for similar consideration. The fire is still raging up till now. Apart from this, it also caused tremendous feud and bad blood with other Ministers who could not see the rationale for singling out medical doctors for a special apartheid salary review while neglecting other professionals in the civil service. With this ingenuous approach to governance and management, accountability completely disappeared. There was no longer any check and balance on funds released and methods of disbursements. There was no pattern, no co-ordination, no co-operation between Ministers of Departments and no policy linkage between Ministries. The favoured Ministries like Health, Works, FederalCapitalTerritory and Defence became flooded with funds and as should be expected, corrupt and shady practices became inevitable. 

In short, for thirteen godless years Nigeria had no government. Armed gangsters bestrode the country raping and looting the Federal treasury to their heart’s delight. It was amazing to hear Professor Tam David West in one interview in The Guardian on Sunday defending with gusto what we passed through as a government. The Babangida and Abacha military administration cannot qualify for the name of a government. It is a misnomer to refer to these two administrations as government. It is a misuse of a model label. These two men and their supporters were bandits, marauders, gangsters, and official armed robbers in the true sense of the titles. They were able to do everything they did because they had unchecked access to our guns and armoury. They were neither intelligent nor knowledgeable and neither were they patriotic nor benevolent. They were hoodlums and despots who depended wholly on the use of fear, blackmail, patronage and murder to have and own their ways. It will therefore be a honourable act for all those who took part in these abuses to own up and to offer an unreserved apology to the people of Nigeria

That any silly professor who served under this administration up till now is yet to see his/her service as a grave misjudgement and a wrong decision on his/her part is a testimony to a lack of true knowledge or wisdom. How any minister, commissioner, civil servant and other public office holder could still decide to play Mr Clean and Innocent beat me hollow. How any of these patriotic Nigerians have failed to see that the Babangida and Abacha administrations were only possible because of their tacit connivance and collusion beggars belief. How can they not see that without their silence, their fear, their hypocritical commitment to truth, goodness, freedom and justice these regimes could not have lasted till they did? How can Nigerian elite refused to accept this period as an ignominious national error and to acknowledge this unforgettable experience as a proof of their foolishness and of the intellectual, moral and ethical emptiness of their minds? 

Through patronage and blackmail, these two administrations brought the whole institution of government into disrepute. Ministers learnt fast as soon as they were sworn in to play by the rules of these Machiavellian leaders. Money and positions were exchanged freely to silence dissenting voices. Blackmail was used to keep the services of erring friends and acquaintances that seem to be ready to spill the beans. Innocent Nigerians who refused to play ball were threatened and some were killed. Professor Awa, the penultimate Chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) before Professor Nwosu was heard reporting on the spade of calumny unleashed on him and members of his household after his resignation because he refused to play by their rules. Professor Nwosu also was blackmailed and the documented materials gathered earlier on him were used to silence him into final compliance at the darkest hour of Nigeria in June 1993. The Ani’s cash and carry episode under Abacha should not be treated as a one-off occurrence. It is a revelation of an established institutional practice created by Babangida known in Nigeria as a Settlement Culture/Management. Every public office holder was deliberately compromised and put in a very difficult position. It was a catch-22 situation. Head or tail you lose. If you keep quiet you lose. If you report it you lose. No minister of these two hoodlums escaped from this heinous practice. It was pure and simple blackmail. It was the only way to break the soul of all those that foolishly accepted to serve under them.

Under these two men, Nigeria was like a big bazaar and a casino. The sovereign military monarchies of Babangida and Abacha became the sole administrators of Nigeria. Their words became the law. The spin lawyers of the Ministry of Justice became very proficient as they turn the drifts and dribbles uttered by these men into decrees over night. Yet these learned men and women will also claim, if questioned, that they were merely following directives. Just like the Nazi Germany officials, these learned men and women have no opinion, no conviction, no belief, no conscience, in short, no moral or ethical scruple of any kind. They were pure and simple mere automatons rigidly and mechanically following the rules. As glorified civil servants they have no business challenging the rules, they will argue. It never dawned on these legal luminaries that the military boys were civil servants too. This rape of justice was possible because our learned friends are bereft of the first principle of federalism. They forgot or have no inkling about the fundamental premise on which Nigeria state was built. They have never heard, both in their colleges and in the celebrated Law School of Nigeria, about the inalienable rights of Nigerians to equality, justice and liberty. As the custodian of the third arm of government, rather than be the first to challenge the unconstitutionality of military coups and rule, they were the first institution to give the crucial critical legal assistance in form of Decree that suspends the Constitution they were mandated to protect.

The Ministry of Justice, during this period, concentrated all its energies to the service of the President and to no one else. Every Ministry had draft bills that lay in the cabinet for many years in this ministry without seeing the light of the day unless the ‘president’ or his wife showed a special interest. As from 1986 every Ministry embarked on the project of policy formulation in emulation of Professor Ransome-Kuti, the Minister of Health who pioneered the production of this magic document. The policy document was manufactured after a jamboree called Conference, several committee meetings, and endless specialist workshops and at a great financial cost. The policy document would then move from the Minister to the Council of Ministers and like a tortoise to the Armed Forces Ruling Council. Few Ministries were lucky to have their policy back. Most Ministries never saw it again. Those who got the approval of AFRC could not get a legal bill or decree to support the initiatives declared in the document for eventual implementation because the Ministry of Justice had no time for such unglamorous assignments.

In effect for thirteen years, The Federal Government of Nigeria was run without either a constitution or proper legislations. Every Ministry was managed according to the whims of their Minister or Director-General, or Director or anyone who had the clout to arrogate to himself political power in the ministry. It could be the Director of Finance or Budget or even a very junior officer with necessary connection in government. There was no legal backing for most of the activities and services of government. As a result of absence of law for procedural standardisation and limitations of power, there was no way of checking the excesses of public office holders. Most activities of Ministries became self-serving engagements - plans, projects and programmes were embarked upon at the mere hunch of the minister or his cronies. If a multi-million Naira is to be expended, the only thing the minister had to do was to seek a private audience with the ‘president’ and off he went to award the contract. These were military monarchies at their worst and a true example of the sovereign reign of one man. Babangida or Abacha was the sovereign power and the sovereign law. Everything that happened in Nigeria, during the Babangida reign, happened of his name, by his name, for his name and to his name. And Abacha repeated the same performance and method of governance to its worst extreme. In this respect cronyism evolved and developed into a major ideology of the Federal Government of Nigeria. It was clearly and unmistakably an administration of the cronies by the cronies for the cronies. The only thing any Nigerian who wanted a piece of the action at that time had to do, was to beat a path to any of the minor cronies who would satisfy his/her needs or give a powerful reference to a medium or major cronies until the path leads to the ‘president’ himself.

In a nutshell, no government was in place in Nigeria from 1984-1998. The big but empty-headed professors who served under these men should hold their heads in shame. But nay, as typical shameless Nigerians, they are still trying to hoodwink us that what they gave their lives and souls to was a government; that they worked tirelessly for our benefit; and that we, the people of this land, are ingrates who had refused to be thankful. This writer will like to warn them that they will fail if they persist with their fraudulent claims and that we, the common people of Nigeria, shall regard every one of them as sinners and liars that contributed irreparably to our misery, suffering, poverty and hardships. We shall continue to see them as men and women who participated actively in the great debauchery of the state. And we shall continue to hold them responsible for the bloods of the innocent Nigerians that were shed during this shameful episode, until these shallow professors and other elites of our nations confess to their grievous errors.

Despite the efforts of Professor Dotun Philips and others to review the structure and management of the executive arm (civil service) of the government, they failed woefully because these eggheads could not understand the clandestine motives of those at the helm of power. They failed to see that every intelligent Nigerian was been offered a job as a strategic means of blackmailing to pave the way for their easy manipulation as at when necessary. All the good recommendations of this panel and several others were bastardised at the implementation stage because of, the patronage habit of the government that ceaselessly put round pegs in square holes; the careless abandonment of agreed policy directives in mid-stream; the carefully orchestrated instability of tenure of public office holders; the fluidity of public policy initiatives that are never underpinned by any known ideology or debated legislation; and the celebration of mediocrity as a national asset by both the federal sole administrator, alias president, and the other levels of military hierarchy. The mediocrity of the military administration was amply manifested in the large-scale confusion and duplication of roles and functions among several ministries. Some of the common scenarios are Budget department versus National Planning Department; Finance Department versus Central Bank of Nigeria; Ministries versus extra-ministerial Commissions under them, etc. Nobody had a clue about the limitations of power and functions since there were no legislative guidelines.

 

Of Civil Society

Nigeria as an emerging state or a pretender nation-state has had her share of narrow misses and escapes from premature death. This remarkably tragic short history is like the story of all human life as captured in the biological adventure of a foetus whose survival from the moment of conception through birth, infancy, adolescence and adulthood is nothing short of miracles. Like the baby, at every stage of its growth and development, disaster hovers closely around. Is it of the mother who felt she did not want a child at that period in time and contemplated abortion, but somehow got dissuaded? Is it of the almost premature birth or stillbirth; or of the careless nurses/nannies who nearly choked the baby? Is it of the adulterated baby foods and polluted water that almost poisoned the baby to death and so on and so forth? Yet the baby survived and succeeded into adulthood. 
The Nigeria’s situation captures this analogy in every symbolic sense. The fact that there is still a place called Nigeria, a mere ‘geographical expression’ and a neat utility administrative framework created by George Goldie, a British adventurer and exploiter, purely for personal economic gains, is a testimony to fate. The short history of Nigeria so far, just as it was in its creation, has been froth with bad faith from all and sundry. Every major actor who has performed on the stage of Nigeria’s political theatre had come with similar peculiar script. Like Sir Goldie’s script, it was not designed to build a nation but to exploit the riches of this chimera of a landmass for the glorification of self.
The problems facing Nigeria as a baby country are definitely man-made and there is no single reason why the gods should be drawn into it at all. But sadly, religion has become the main theme of analysis by many experts. They see the mostly Muslim north and the mostly Christian south and they quickly come to a conclusion that the differences in faith are the root cause of the problems. Of course, religion from time memorial is one of the cheap tools of exploitation by all Machiavellian-type leaders. Tyrannical leaders have never been known to be great lovers of intellectual analysis of problems in their empires. They often prefer to hide under the exigencies of circumstances, propaganda and slogans. Therefore any analysis for that matter, that is geared towards the fundamental questioning of the political, economic or social problems, organisation and institutions of their tyrannised country, regardless of its beneficial effect to their subjects, is forcefully rejected. They see any informed reflection articulated to promote social change as a potential threat to the status quo of the pattern of privileges as well as of the power relations. Hence, it should not be a surprise to find that the so-called Nigerian leaders have couched political, economic and social issues under religious myths and fallacies to frighten the ignorant populace into continued, and if they have their way, perpetual subjection and obedience to their anything but godly rule.

Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, the two musketeers, who captured power in Nigeria from 1985 to 1998, were the products of this myth. They capitalised on the established psychology in the northern part of the country that would support anybody or anything that lays claim to being a defender of the ‘sacred north’, which these two were not. At least this implicit claim was a handy tool for them in their war against the people of Nigeria as they schemed to gain ungodly power and to fulfil their silly egoistic ambitions. It is the contention of this writer that the Nigeria’s political set-up is a fertile ground for soldiers of fortune (or is it misfortune?) as well as clever political rogues to lay siege and prosper on the misfortune of the ever faithful but hapless country men and women who put trust in them. As a result of this covert set-up, the Nigeria’s federal political arrangement, since its inception in 1960, has had its real power jealously hidden from the public view. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems those controlling the Mafiosi-like leadership selection arrangements have sworn never to uphold or respect any Nigerian constitution. It seems this gentlemen of the night are forever mainly driven by a supremacist and fundamentalist clandestine secret agenda that are contrary to the open constitution of Nigeria. This is the set up that has consistently produced rogue military leaders and weak purposeless political leaders.

However, is there any truth in the belief that the common people of Nigeria cannot relate or work or live together because of the differences in religious faith? Is it true that the Northern part of Nigeria is a wholly Islamic region and that it abhors every other person who does not share its beliefs? Can we ask, what is so special about the people of the north that they needed extra-vigilance in order to keep off other people from their perch of Nigeria? When and how did the fear of political domination developed and who are the sponsors of this vile divisive idea? This writer believes that finding answers to these questions will go a long way in unravelling the myth that created the kind of leadership that have bestridden and wrapped Nigeria in fear since independence to the detriment of peace, equality, freedom, justice and development. 

As a result of the ungodly rule of Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, the last thirteen years in Nigeria witnessed a despicable value reorientation and a grievous barbaric misuse of state power. These two governments committed atrocious and heinous crimes on the peoples and on the institutions of government in Nigeria. It will shock all and sundry when Nigerians who are physically involved in the perpetration of these dastardly deeds eventually find their voices. The revelation will almost dwarf the record of the Nazi Germany of 1939 - 1945. The testimonies will surely come into the open when sanity begins to reign in the land. These incidents cannot and should not be swept under the carpet without the truth being told to prevent a reoccurrence. The psychological damages to both the perpetrators and the victims will be too great for the health of the nation to handle. And unless a healing process is put in place the consequence might lead to a social and political implosion. At the moment, some of the victims of these atrocities are too traumatised even after being released from incarceration to discuss their painful experiences in the hands of friends, work-mates, kinsmen, business-partners and such like close acquaintances who claimed they were acting and working for the greater good of the country. 

These two hideous men claimed they were more concerned about the unity and sovereignty of the country than freedom, liberty, constitutional or human rights, justice, rule of law, fair play or other such civilised niceties. They were unyielding in their vain faith that the unity of the country must be preserved even if every dissenting voice has to be cruelly shut by force or blackmail or even death, so be it.It is disheartening to hear the likes of Umaru Shinkafi, former Director-General of the National Security Organisation, a presidential aspirant in 1993 and a Vice-presidential aspirant in 1999, in his published tribute to the memory of Sani Abacha, saying, “Those individuals whom he [Abacha] saw and judged as too determined to undermine Nigeria’s unity of purpose he confronted very forcefully. In these, he never flinched. To me that approach accounted for his stern public image…. Personally, I would say categorically that General Abacha’s preoccupation with preserving Nigeria’s unity, security and sovereignty against any form of subversion in the guise of political freedom or international diplomacy is valid.”2

It is therefore valid to lie, murder, put innocent people in jeopardy, torture, maim, incarcerate and engage in all other unspeakable things which Shinkafi knows much about, as he was the first civilian head of the organisation saddled with such great national assignment. Just think about it, if eminent personalities in Nigeria like Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua could be made to go through a cooked-up coup plot, conviction and sentencing all in the name of preserving national unity, then may the good Lord help the poor and ordinary Nigerians who fell by innocent mistakes into the traps set for subversive elements. From the newspaper reports we now learnt that the Nigeria Security agents don’t even wait for their foes to commit the offences alleged anymore: they set traps for the would be offenders! They are now so brilliantly creative in the performance of their duties to the extent that they set traps for the enemies of the state. 

Oladipo Diya and others already convicted and sentenced to death for coup d’etat are living examples of such ingenious official masterminds. In the words of Obasanjo concerning his sojourn in the hands of blue-blood patriots, “The conviction as dictated by the highest level of government was parcelled out like wrapped presents on 14th July 1995 to some citizens of this country who were seen as too dangerous or uncompromising for the comfort of a deceitful, godless, corrupt, soulless, oppressive, murderous, obstinate and wicked regime. The whole exercise was a charade and a cover-up to arrive at a predetermined objective of eliminating and silencing those who refused to be compromised. It was the most iniquitous political act by any government since Nigerian independence.”3

Reasonable men and women in Nigeria are asking, and the question is becoming more and more strident of recent, on whose or for what benefit is this unity to which Nigeria as a political entity has been obsessively committed since its amalgamation in 1914? The murmur and query are getting louder, more so when it is noted that every evil being perpetrated by the state agents has been committed in the name of the unity of Nigeria. The question is if the unity of Nigeria is so important, how come ordinary Nigerians seem not to understand it? Do you need high intelligence quotient to decipher that one’s life and every other life in Nigeria cannot survive except there is this elusive but yet ineluctable unity the political overlords hanker about? What is the nature of this unity? Who are the visionaries or prophets who had looked through the magical glass to discover that without this magic wand called unity that Nigeria and the life of every human existence in it are in peril? The word of Immanuel Wallerstein on unity is prescient, “In the abstract, unity is an innocent concept that precludes dissent. But in its concrete manifestation - the desire to create, reinforce or increase the unity of a specific social group - it is far controversial.”4

The Holy Bible has a passage that says; can two people walk together except they first agreed? And there is another popular adage that says, you can drag a horse to the river but you cannot force it to drink if it does not want to. Is this not the character of Nigeria’s political situation? Are the different nationalities, which constitute this geographical space, called Nigeria willing to walk together or have they all agreed to walk together? Are they been dragged along the political highway without their consent? Are they been forced, cajoled, manipulated, blackmailed under duress to follow? Or else... It was once said that, “Holding this country together is not possible except by means of the religion of the Prophet…. If they want political unity let them follow our religion.”5 Have the attitude, perception and conception of those who made the statement or that of their protégée changed since those words were recorded in 1942 by the Conference of the Northern Chiefs?

The history of national unity started with the 1947 Richard’s Constitution, which stated that one of the three main objectives of the constitution, is “to promote the unity of Nigeria.” The other two objectives are, “to provide adequately within that unity for the diverse elements which make up the country” and “to secure greater participation by Africans in the discussion of their affairs.”6 This is one of the proofs of the British hypocrisy in the affairs of all her colonies. Why is it that it was at the eve of its departure from Nigeria that Britain realised that the unity of Nigeria was important? What is wrong with the established divide and rule strategy that was already in place and working perfectly fine since 1914? What is wrong with the two separate and distinctively different legislative councils that have served the British colonial rule perfectly well in their raping, pillaging and acquisitive functions? 

The simple answer is the unity doctrine is one of the booby traps laid out for the all-believing and all-trusting Nigerians. The political goal of unity of diverse nations has never been achieved anywhere in the world peacefully except by murder and rape. In all countries where different nationalities were merged together under one flag, this ignominious experiments were achieved by military conquest. The process has often been hastened by the killing of all the male population in the captured territory and by the merciless abduction and raping of the mourning widows and daughters. In such countries the women population are never trusted because of fear that they could carry out a revenge attack for their murdered husbands and sons. Sex discrimination is therefore craftily worked into the cultural milieu using all kinds of concocted traditional values and superstitions to hold the women down and separate from active participation in the political life. Check your history books if in doubt. This is the political mine field Britain laid out for Nigeria. And, didn’t we fall into it?

For thirty-eight godless years every government in Nigeria has made the unity of Nigeria the first among equals of their national goals to which every other goals were subsumed. As a result of this unity obsession, other goals like economic well being, technological development, justice, law and order, equality and liberty which are more fundamental to the goal of unity or the goal of social cohesion for the overall well being of the nation have suffered in the hands of the oligarchic fundamentalist and the colonial native feudal lords. We could therefore safely remark that the reckless wasteful pursuit of the Nigerian governments in aid of the need to fudge a national unity since 1960 is central to the political problems of Nigeria

It should be obvious to all discerning people that the political unity, the kind Britain designed for Nigeria, could never be achieved under a climate of cultivated and regularly sustained mistrust except by the use of fear, arson, blackmail and patronage. These are the instruments that were perfected by the two musketeers who stole the highest office in the land. It was political salesmanship galore. Every Nigerian that voiced a different opinion from that of the government of the day was silenced by either a threat to his life, or by blackmail or by outright offer of money and positions. It sure did work, at least for Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha but it failed to achieve the much-touted unity of Nigeria to which every resource available to the country has been diverted since 1960.

The Conspiracy and The Cult

Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, the two military demagogues, were not patriots in any debased sense, neither were they interested in protecting the North or anybody for that matter from any ‘foreign’ domination. They were merely two ordinary but psychologically damaged Nigerians who, in their formative childhood years, witnessed and experienced personal humiliation, discrimination and social deprivation at close quarters. This was as a result of their immigrant status in the towns of their birth under the northern Nigeria feudal system. They secretly vowed to do something about their experiences. The last thirteen years is a proof that they did do something about it. Unfortunately, they were shallow opportunists with neither faith nor beliefs in any higher principle or virtue apart from the love of money and the magical power of money. They have no visions greater than self but were clever enough to realise their personal ambition, which was, to have their names on the ruler’s list of Nigeria. The total strategy of their operation was rooted in blackmail and in this they excelled.
In their inglorious journey to the top and even after attaining their goals, they blackmailed their friends, their colleagues, their superiors and anybody that crossed their paths. In the case of those who resisted, and such cases were very few, they never lived to tell the story. While one is ever smiling and the other was ever hiding his eyes behind very dark goggles, none of their acquaintances ever doubted the iron-will and chilling wickedness behind the smile or the dark glasses. These two men have no atom of respect for any life; they are the archetypal bad men of the popular Hollywood films. The military rumour mill is full of stories of their ruthlessness and their rising star status was acknowledged by all as second to none in the Nigerian Military hall of notoriety. They started on this part by accident when the northern military officers had to avenge the losses of their colleagues in the first coup d’etat of January 1966. They were among the young officers that performed brilliantly well in their avenging duties. The result of that gruesome episode was the merciless assassination of Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi and many others. 

The fearless performance of Babangida in particular shot him into the status of cult heroes. Babangida became ‘The Untouchable’ among his colleagues and superior officers especially those from the under-class regions in the Force. Abacha, one of the greatest opportunists that Nigeria ever sired, saw the rising star of his classmate from the NigerianMilitarySchool, and he quickly tagged along. Their super-efficient role in identifying supposedly state enemies and in rooting out all local subversive treasonable activities from the fatherland was legendary. In such dastardly and bizarre engagements they never failed and they later succeeded in recruiting and training up similar ‘patriotic’ executioners. This is how Babangida got to partake in every military skirmishes concerning change of power in Nigeria since 1966. Even Niccolo Machiaveli who the rumour mill claimed is the patron saint and political father of Babangida had this to say about those who achieved sovereignty by means of crime, “And yet we can not call it valour to massacre one’s fellow-citizens, to betray one’s friends, and to be devoid of good faith, mercy, and religion; such means may enable a man achieve empire, but not glory.”7

Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha both believed in the invisibility of money power backed by gun power as a veritable instrument for the establishment and protection of the sovereignty of one-man rule. To the first they gave their souls completely. They made money, how they made their money is another story for another day but it must be told. They had always used money to settle anybody who they identified as a likely stumbling block to their desires even before they wrested the absolute political power. You hear of courtiers that say of them, they are very generous. Of course they were, because they learnt the lesson of blackmailing superbly well and so they know that everybody is ‘buyable’ in the Nigerian parlance. They understand that having intelligence knowledge of the needs of their targets is all a blackmailer requires in fixing the right price. If there is any culture that can be identified with these two men it is the ‘culture of settlement’. 

Babangida established a brand new cult or religion in Nigeria, which we shall call Babangidaism. It is very close to a mystical all-consuming faith in the omnipotent power of money. Converts were brainwashed to drop all the cherished values, principles and virtues of their societies. They adopted the end justifies the means philosophy and became totally consumed with only one goal in life: to make big money by hook or by crook. Every Nigerian was converted: the traditional and the untraditional rulers; the spiritual and the non-spiritual leaders; the city and the rural women; the educated and the uneducated men; the moralist and the non-moralist; as well as the southerner and the northerner. His converts could be found in every community, in every mosque, in every church and in the length and breadth of Nigeria. Since the reign of Babangida every Nigerian has come under the spell of Babangidaism.

Students of sociology, philosophy and psychology need to give attention to this Babangida phenomenon that has completely changed the character of a whole nation. Hopefully, one day when sanity begins to reign in the country, Nigerians will be encouraged to come out of their fears and talk freely about their individual experiences or horrors in the corridor of Babangida-Abacha’s ‘Militarydom’. It is hoped that one day all the pretending respectable Nigerians who fell under the spell of the High Priest will have the courage to disclose their pains and joys in the hands of their masters. When the time is right and a brand new Nigeria is in place, a Truth Commission must be instituted as one of the means that will be necessary to purge the nation of the evil of this cult of money worshipers. 

This national demonic malady, which has befallen all Nigerians, is dangerous, injurious and fatal to the social health of Nigeria. There is no need for anyone who served in the governments of these two stalwarts to go into self-denial. Babangida knew a thing or two about human nature. He knew that the soul of Nigerians, like all human souls cannot be ruled unless broken. Through his religion, Babangida broke the soul of everybody who sets eyes on him or who he sets his eyes on. Nobody who served in his government escaped his ever smiling but evil gaze. It will be the height of tomfoolery and great deceit if any of his Ministers, Military Service Chiefs, Garrison Commandants, Director-Generals, Chairmen of Parastatals, Governors, Commissioners, Chairmen and Councillors of Local Governments, top or low civil servants, and government contractors of all shades, colours and sizes, pretend that they were never converted into this ungodly cult. 

Once again, when the time is right for genuine reconciliation, all worshippers must be persuaded to come forward; to make open confession; to seek forgiveness; and to pay appropriate restitution for the irreparable injury they have caused the nation and particularly for their idolatry. Anything short of this is a delusion that the Nigeria state as presently constituted and managed will survive in to the far future. Babangida’s spell on Nigeria must be exorcised. Until this is done, Babangida and his disciples, who are scattered all over the country, will always be a threat to the social, economic and political health and development of this deformed or incapacitated nation.

 

Lest We Forget

Looking at the media coverage of the death of Abacha sinceJune 8 1998, it seems the mass media was inadvertently trying to separate Abacha’s regime from Babangida’s reign. This is most unfortunate. It is one of the major sicknesses in Nigeria, a serious debilitating and chronic case of amnesia. Under the effect of this ailment, Nigerians are prone to a complete blackout of the events of the recent past and they become incapable of recalling from memory important events even those that pertain to their future happiness. As a result they seem to lack the ability to monitor phenomenon over time; to see the link in separate events emanating from the same source; and to draw pertinent inferences that could help them understand issues correctly in order to make valid objective decisions. To avoid this error, it is necessary to remind Nigerians that Abacha’s regime was a mere extension of Babangidas. 
Drawing inference from the way the exchange of command was conducted in 1993, it seems the two conspirators had a solemn pact to rule one after the other. The change of baton could have been bloody had Babangida refused to abdicate in August 1993. The only person Babangida feared in Nigeria was Abacha. Observers should therefore have noticed that Babangida was almost under house arrest until the news of the terminal nature of Abacha’s illness started to filter out. Before that time, Babangida was another voiceless Nigerian. However, whatever hold Abacha had on him, one hopes those who know would oblige this important information to the nation. He is still a man to be closely watched. Babangida still believes he could bounce back to power in Nigeria if he wants to or at worst becomes a kingmaker. Nigerians should not, for a second, doubt his capability. 

It is easy to be deceived into believing that there is a difference between the regime of Babangida and that of Abacha. Or even the present military regime that is been courted by the international community and some gullible Nigerians. Any difference in the two defunct ‘governments’ whatsoever is just a question of personality style. The basic principle on which Babangida and Abacha ‘governments’ were run is one and the same. The policy orientation of Babangida was a personal vendetta on the established power base of the north. Both men took great pleasure in playing musical-chair game with the centre of northern power. They truly meant to scourge the head of the hidden power in Nigeria. In the process they got sucked into their own vanity and they lost bearing (if at all they ever had one) under an absolute power, which the sages say corrupt absolutely. 

Abdussallami Abubakar, the present incumbent on the military throne of Nigeria, cannot and should not be trusted with the task of saving Nigeria from the valley of death to which his predecessors have consigned her. As a matter of fact no man, and not military personnel either, can give liberty to another man. If a man of reason becomes aware that his liberty was stolen, he must fight to get it back since it is a birthright without which man is of no better value than a kept animal. Nobody can give to another man a true liberty, whatever is given by any earthly power, no matter how benevolent in the name of liberty, is a farce. The onus is on each thinking-Nigerian to use, as a matter of urgency, his or her God-given gift of reasoning to seek the truth and to identify the lies of our situation as a nation of pretenders. 

Nigerian so-called leaders have, since independence, pretended about their love for unity when they prefer disunity since it serves the purpose of divide and rule. They pretended about their desire for peace when it is under crisis that the new moneymen and women among them are created. They pretended about their belief in the principle of equality of persons when inequality is the only workable strategy suitable for their peculiar commonwealth. They pretended about their eagerness for democracy when the traditional rulers and the privileged ones in our midst prefer the status quo since they know democracy will put an end to their unconstitutional reigns. It is therefore not surprising that all the efforts of libertarians and true democrats in the last thirteen years have not received the expected popular support from Nigerians who are patiently waiting for a Messiah to deliver them from tyranny, feudalism, nepotism, cronyism and ‘babangidaism’. They wait in vain because Abubakar is not the messiah on whom Nigerians can throw their political shopping list.

KnowledgeAnd Truth

Ignorance is the death knell of progress,

That makes the rape of justice possible 

And reign of mediocrity supreme.

Knowledge is the cradle of civilisation

That gives reverence to justice 
And makes the rule of law sovereign.

The thirst for knowledge signals freedom.

Acquiring true knowledge bestows power,

That shines light into the crooked heart;

That puts right the wrongs of injustice; 

That stands tall as an equal of any noble;

That strengthens the firm ground of principle;

That drives out every human fear;

And sets the soul free forever.

(Sam Abbd Israel)
The issue that should concern every Nigerian who has seen the light of freedom is how do you bring these glad tidings to other fellow Nigerians? How do you convey the ideas of liberty, equality and justice to every living Nigerian as the inalienable rights of man? How do you make Nigerians to act on this knowledge in a way that will put into oblivion forever the rape of their persons and their nations by the military and its political collaborators who masqueraded as leaders this past 38 years? The apathy of Nigerians to the crusades of genuine democrats and human rights activists is evidence that there is a deep but bridgeable conceptual gulf between the crusaders and fellow Nigerians.

On reflection, it is clear that this gulf has a lot to do with the prevailing religion of ‘Babangidaism’. This religion has single-handedly rewritten the core social values of the Nigerian society. A suffocating cash nexus relationship that grew out of this satanic faith has paralysed all legitimate institutions of intervention and social controls for the protection of those excluded or technically prevented from the altar of Babangida’s offerings. The value premise on which the Nigeria state operates now is not one that can sustain any society no matter how primitive the society is. The way things are at this point in time in Nigeria will find most Nigerians wanting if call upon to make a choice between liberty and Mammon or more specifically between freedom without money and slavery with money. There is no doubt in the mind of anybody familiar with Nigeria what the first choice will be.

The outcome of this simple value and psychological test is an indictment on whatever Nigeria has in place that is called education. It is an education that has failed so far to make its pupils realise and appreciate that the greatest gift every man received from the creator is liberty and that this precious gift has no parallel exchange value that would not reduce the natural quality of man. An education that has failed to bring to the attention of its wards the great universal history of ideas that should have awaken in them the intuitive propensity to seek knowledge for the sake of personal development and not just to get that lucrative job. It is therefore not surprising that a large number of the citizen who claim some letters behind their names as educated men and women still remain blind to the first principle of what exactly constitute a good life. 

The Nigeria’s problem could therefore be better understood when it is realised that it is a case of the blind leading the blind. How can we expect a soldier or politician who has no knowledge or understanding of what liberty is to procure democracy for the citizens? How can a polity that refuses to negotiate the terms and conditions of association with all concerned because it abhors the concept of equality and has no respect for human rights of the citizens establish and protect justice? What name apart from occupied territory do you call a geographical space captured as it was illegally by a group of marauding gunslingers? A country with a suspended constitution or without any contracts of association or memorandum of understanding but ruled by a martial decree cannot lay claim to the status of a nation state. It is therefore not surprising that Nigeria as presently constituted has been governed as a personal estate first, of Babangida’s and of late of Abacha’s until death took him away from his inherited stolen stool.

It is shameful that after all the struggles made by the Nigerian nationalist movements in the 1940s and 1950s for independence, the country has since regressed to the principle of Indirect Rule that was earlier instituted by Lord Lugard in the early part of this century. Or what do you call the pattern of rule adopted by the successive military administration since 1966, where the Emirs, the Obas and the Obis of the land were clandestinely manipulated to purchase hegemony and legality for the military? What is the name of the game, where the traditional rulers play the ostrich that bury its head in the sand as in the days of the District Officers and Colonial Governors? What name do we call the partnership between the military rulers and the traditional rulers that know fully well that their (the traditional rulers) privileged position is safe and that their subjects can rot in hell for all they care as long as the traditional rulers play the wink-wink and nod-nod game - see no evil, hear no evil and talk no evil - as they did with the colonialist? We have seen a resurgence of this kind of relationship between the military rulers and the traditional rulers and this was more pronounced in the time of Babangida.

Looking at the situation of Nigeria reminds one of the conclusions drawn by Sir A. B. Ellis with respect to the African race from his Study of Ewe-Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa in 1890. He wrote, “They can imitate, but they cannot invent or even apply. They certainly fail to grasp and to generalise a notion.”8 At first glance it is easy to put down the author, as a white supremacist writer but an objective reflection on the total situations of Africa’s problem today seem to corroborate Sir Ellis observation. What exactly does the experience of Nigeria say, if after almost a century, Nigeria’s so-called leaders or rulers have to go back in time to exhume the most degrading form of government ever devised by the minds of English rulers and exported by British colonial exploiters as the only befitting political system for the free people of Nigeria? 

Or how do we explain the vigorous fight put up by the supporters of Abacha must continue to rule this last five years? The utterances and behaviours of these vacuous men and women of the political class seem to lay in a divine claim to having every right to speak and act for the people even without the smallest courtesy of seeking the people’s consent. And to realise that among these crusaders are learned men and women who have travelled the world, have had a brush with John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine and other libertarian writers in their college days and yet could make such claims as they did before Abacha’s death took the steam off their oars is mind-boggling. What are you expected to think? Are this class of Nigerian elites able to grasp concept of anything virtuous and valuable; are they able to apply it; and are they capable of developing any new idea? 

It is disheartening to accept the fact that fellow country men and women have failed to partake of the universal ideas and knowledge that have shaken and set the world aglow on the path of progress this past three thousand years. The term third world seems to encapsulate everything about Nigeria and indeed Africa, it is definitely far from the centre of the world - a third grade world. What makes the difference between the first and the third world has nothing to do with the fundamental nature of the peoples but it is about how each has managed to overcome the vicissitude of nature in their respective environments through the ideas of pockets of geniuses that have graced this planet. According to Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher in Leviathan, “Nature hath made men equal in the faculties of body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he.”9

How Nigerian political elite could claim total ignorance of the pool of knowledge that have transformed peoples and nations in the last two hundred years beats one hollow. Rational men cannot but ask, what rights have these political charlatans and prostitutes got to lay claims to leadership status in a constitutional republic when they have no understanding of basic principle of human rights. It is amazing that the political rogues in Nigeria have neither heard of both the American Revolution and of the French Revolution nor of the great Greek philosophers who gave the world valuable ideas on the concept of soul, life, nature, man, government, society, science, democracy, etc. It is beyond belief that these crooked men and women parading as leaders have never heard of the 15-17th Century European philosophers and the efforts they made to modernise Britain and Europe away from the unjust feudal monarchical absolutist rule of Popes, Kings and Emperors. Nor have they heard of the history of the American democracy, which has become the envy of the world today. How can these people who behave as if the world started yesterday and who refused to borrow and learn from the history of great peoples and nations that have gone by as well as those of the contemporary age to order their own lay claim to the life of Nigerians to do as they please with in the name of empty political slogan of national unity?

Isn’t it bewildering that at the end of the twentieth century, the so-called leaders who clamour for peace and unity as the only goal of government have refused to negotiate the basis of association with the respective nationalities, which constitute this their empire? They have refused to understand the inherent illegality surrounding a government that is not based on any agreed contract of associations and relations whatsoever. All collaborators - both internal and external - of these illegal governments have equally refused to appreciate that under such hegemony, no institution is free from corruption. Indeed, no institution of government can be built or nurtured to serve the purpose of safe- guarding the equality, the freedom and the security of everybody except those of a privileged few. These ‘governments’ throughout their period believed in both the strategic and non-strategic use of fear, high-handedness and share naked force as reasonable political weapons to keep every citizen in line. These ‘governments’ have shown no respect for the intelligence of their subjects, they do not even believe the citizens as a whole have any. They therefore could neither seek nor ask for the people’s consents either on simple policy matters or on fundamental constitutional matters. 

It is not uncommon to find that making suggestions or tendering propositions or offering opinions as well as championing the principle of consensus as a means for arriving at national directions and objectives are seen as subversive tendencies. Even at this late stage in the history of mankind, the Nigerian governments are yet to understand that no relationship among equals - friendship, marriage, family, community, society - can take off or survive for long if the contract of association is not well spelt out from the on-set both implicitly and explicitly. They are yet to accept the reality that formal or informal agreements must be well spelt out. That the memorandum of understanding on how far a relationship can go; on what the purpose of the association is meant to achieve; on whether the relationship is a partnership - senior or junior - or totally a master-servant; on what is mutually exchangeable; on what is common or private property; and on what is to be accepted as joke or an insult, must be clearly articulated. That for any relationship to work and bear fruit, the tiniest nitty-gritty of every conceivable matters - cultural, social, economic, political - must be addressed squarely or else the relationship will be in a state of perpetual conflict. Even when participants meant no harm by their actions or pronouncements but because they have failed to agree on the meaning of terms and concepts that they run the risk of seeing simple matters being construed as decisive to the continuation or abrogation of the relationship. 

So how can the Nigerian human right crusaders and libertarians bring their messages to the doorstep of every person in the polity? How can they persuade ordinary Nigerians that the path Nigeria has treaded and is still treading will not lead to the promised land flowing with milk and honey? How can they convince the common people that all the nooks and corners of this vast land is ridden with Babangida’s wolves in human clothing eager to tear them apart if they persisted to remain careless about the most fundamental matters of what constitute a good life? How can they alert the people that the sharks in their midst have colluded to deny them forever their fundamental human rights as citizens and as human beings created in the image of God? How can they ring the alarm to warn that waiting on the defence for that divine intervention which every Nigerian pacifist is praying for and refusing to lift a finger even to give moral support to those fearless few who are standing up to the despots with their lives is cowardly and unforgivable? We shall again look at these questions in the role of civil society in To Your Tents O! Nigerians.

It is all right for Nigerians once again to fall on the queue as advisers to their non-listening oppressors. They ought to have known better by now if they have learnt any lesson this last 38 years that it is simply a waste of valuable time. They need to be told that any advise to be offered at this time should be directed at the people of Nigeria in order to wake them up from their irresponsible slumber. Obafemi Awolowo in Path to Nigerian Freedom published in 1947 had a very unsavoury impression about Nigerians, which even after 50 years has remained unimproved. He writes, “In public affairs, the Nigerians are unduly apathetic. Whenever they woke up spasmodically to tackle any problem of the day, they betray an alarming thoughtlessness…in the very breath with which they make their demand, they proclaim their own unfitness for their aspirations.” He went on, “It is not a case of inability to think, it is unwillingness to do so, coupled very often with deep seated prejudices.” This agrees very much with Hobbessian theories since every man has the properties for mental operations necessary for thinking and articulation. He finally advised, “In the solution of their future problems Nigerians must do a good deal of active, constructive and sustained thinking.”10 Has anything changed for better or for worse since those words were written? The advise is still very apt and worthy of reflection by all well-meaning people of Nigeria who are still wondering how Babangida could walk free and even of recent walking tall and making statements on national issues after all the unforgivable sins and abuses he and Abacha perpetrated against the people and the nations this last thirteen years. 

 

The Nationalist Struggle 

Nigerians, at this stage, need to be helped to understand the predicament of their situation by recalling the history of the nationalist struggle in Africa and in Nigeria in particular, prior to political independence. What were the main motives for the struggle? And what were the methods adopted by the nationalist who fought for political independence from the colonial governments? This exercise is necessary to make Nigerians think and to intuitively deduce whether the whole struggle was worth the pain and the sacrifice after all. 
Let us note the following statement by Awolowo in the same book mentioned above, “The history of British rule in Nigeria…is characterised by a policy of aimlessness, drift and want of imagination. It is dangerous to behave irresponsibly with the political destiny and general well-being of a people.”11 If in place of ‘British rule’ we substitute military rule, is there anything significantly out of place if this same statement is applied to the present situation of Nigeria. This was one of the premises that fired the spirit of nationalist struggle. It will be silly of this generation to believe that the whole struggle was merely about a white man-black man prejudice. It was not, at least on the side of Africans. It was about the inalienable right of every man to liberty, justice and human dignity. What is therefore the difference between a British colonial rule and a Nigerian military rule if the present situation is put into context? This is why begging, pleading with, and pandering to any military personnel in power in Nigeria will not solve the problems. Nigerians must demand as a matter of grave and sacred importance a right to govern themselves. The military government is a mere front for the ubiquitous unrepentant feudal hawks who were greatly pampered by the British colonial rulers and who were made to believe that they were special and could therefore be trusted with political power to protect the British interest in Nigeria. And so far, haven’t they done that? 
It was therefore a misguided move for some Nigerian democrats to have run to the British government seeking support to dislodge Abacha, who was a mere second-degree puppet that got too big for his borrowed shoes. Was Abacha dislodged? Were any of his accounts in Europe seized or frozen to put pressure on him and his cohorts?No, of course, even with all the atrocities and abuses he perpetrated, he was still a preferred choice to any of the truly educated class of Nigerians. The truly educated black man is never a trusted ally of the western powers. These breeds of Africans have since the beginning of Nationalist struggle in Africa been placed under careful scrutiny and continuous surveillance. Under this unwholesome hypocritical global climate, Nigerians must learn to seek solace in their own power. The power of ideas must be put to test in Nigeria. Is it true that ideas have a momentum of their own once they are planted? If it is true, let those who have seen the light of liberty, justice and equality come together for the planting season and let nature do its work of growth as we continue to water and nurture these ideas to fruition. This is the season of sowing and planting. Every trained and inspired mind must be put on deck for this sacred duty. 

Nigerians have no other option at this eleventh hour to the millennium. Nigeria can not continue to wallow and fallow in ignorance when her sons and daughters have the wherewithal to plant in their own special green field, the precious seeds of ideas which they have humbly collected all around the world. The Nigeria’s own Garden of Eden must be created and planted now at our own backyard. Nobody will or can do this for Nigeria. The principle of self-interest, which is the foundation of the world economic order of the twentieth century, forbids such altruistic notion or action of genuine assistance. The reigning global powers are keener than the Nigerian feudal lords to maintain the prevailing economic and political status quo. So any Nigerian who expects a genuine helping hand from the western world is still suffering from a bout of ignorance common to the simple all-trusting, the gullible all-believing and the naive non-doubting and non-vetting African race we have mentioned above. 

Let us start in earnest to debate vigorously edifying ideas and to put a stop to the loud and empty beer-parlour type of dialogue found in every community in the land. Let us always remember that there is nothing new in this world and so let us start from the premise that some people somewhere have passed through our kind of present dark calamitous experience. The questions we should be asking are: is there anything we can learn from the experiences of other nations and peoples? Can we borrow these experiences wholesale or can they be adapted or re-fashioned to suit the Nigeria’s peculiar circumstances? So let the thinking Nigerians begin the search for knowledge. There is no alternative way than to seek and to find solution to the social, political and economic problems facing Nigeria at this moment in history. 

It is high time Nigerians stopped tempting God with their incessant prayers for a divine intervention when the solutions are close by. What else do Nigerians want from God? The Almighty God gave Nigeria the most beautiful country in Africa as well as the most blessed with both natural and human resources. The climate is glorious from tropical to mild temperate conditions and the lands are exceptionally fertile before they were foolishly destroyed with fertilisers supplied by foes who still pretend to be friends. So, what else do Nigerians want from God? All the streets of Nigeria are now over-laden with houses of worship, which in this time of economic difficulties have become houses of exploitation. They have become places set aside for the fleecing of the gullible, the hopeless, the heavily laden and burdened Nigerians. Rather than use these houses to serve as places of refuge for the economically poor and the emotionally troubled they have become The Houses of Horror on earth. How long shall Nigerians keep on with their foolishness, even among the so-called educated? This is the time we must develop pragmatic ideas and strategic actions to rescue ourselves once and forever from both the internal and external colonial slave masters. Let us say enough to this careless rigmarole of beating about the wilderness of ignorance by both the blind leaders and the lazy followers. This is action time and Nigerians must save Nigeria for Nigerians. Now is the time. Every hand must be on deck for this sacred duty both to us and for the sake of our posterity.

Finally, let us borrow a statement from Reuben Abati’s column in The Guardian on Sunday where he wrote on the Crazy Trains of Death. In that article he concluded as follows: “Government must do something positive and quickly too…and proper measures should be taken to prevent trains from running into people, cattle and vehicles. If that means closing down the entire railway, until those measures are in place, then let it be.”12 This writer has nothing against writing about train, telephone, airports and aviation etc. to which Abati of recent had given some valuable time. They are issues that are just too far behind from the priority facing Nigeria at the moment. Let us face it; Nigeria has no government except if the universal concept of government has changed in Nigeria. It is therefore a waste of valuable time when writers of Abati’s calibre still have the opinion that there is any institution in Nigeria to whom they could forward a shopping list of requests. 

This reminds me of one of those cheeky adages among the Yorubas that says, ‘The ungodly bearded Imam or Reverend Gentleman was burnt to death in hell and someone was still asking whether his beard, the trade mark of his holiness and purity, arrived safely in heaven.’ A country that has no constitutional government or to be magnanimous, that has a non-accounting military administration (an occupied-force - it is worse than a situation of no government) for almost 32 years and yet commentators are still fond of talking about lacklustre public services and institutional negligence. Haba! Let’s get serious and be fair. However, what we intend to do is to borrow the words of Abati and re-present them as our own shopping list, as follows: ‘Crazy Governments of Death’: “Nigerians must do something positive, and quickly too…and proper measures should be taken to prevent government agents from running into people, cattle and vehicles, if that means closing down the entire government, until those measures are in place, then let it be.”

This advice, if adhered to, will just be in line with the thinking of Thomas Paine when he wrote on the Origin and Design of Government in General. Even though he took his bearing from the English Constitution yet he could not see anything but trouble in government. He says, “society is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinction. The first is a patron the last a punisher.” He went on to add that “society in every state is a blessing but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil, in its worst state an intolerable one;” He continued, “for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without a government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”13 Now imagine a situation in Nigeria where the people had no hand in the purported government acting on their behalf and ungraciously inflicting severe punishment on them. Isn’t that a double calamity? There is a need for Nigerians to reflect on the whole purpose of government. It is not good enough just to accept the colonial arrangement of government as the ideal and the only way of conducting society’s affair. There must surely be another way. This is a task worthy of recommendation to all thinking Nigerians. Let us seek together that new or alternative way. 

Summary and Conclusion

The social, political and economic devastation of the aforementioned ruin of the state is very much visible around us. Nigeria must have to embark on deliberate creative processes at various fronts for the re-building of both the physical ruin and the psychological ruin. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the physical ruin is easy to repair as long as financial and human resources are available. It is the spiritual or psychological ruin that will give us some difficulty. And yet without first taking care of the spiritual aspect our re-building effort of even the physical ruin shall be in vain. It is in this context that this writer will like Nigerians to receive the message of this treatise. It is simply to urge all offenders and all criminals who participated in the debauchery of the British-Nigeria state to accept their guilt and to seek forgiveness from the people of Nigeria.

The attitude of the elite criminals in our midst that is still trying to con and befuddle the people of Nigeria as to a fraudulent claim of innocence is uncalled for. Every Nigerian can tell who were their friends and who were their enemies during this saga. Each community knows whom among their sons and daughters made it and who didn’t make it. Even though the moral and ethical values had collapsed, yet each Nigerian is capable to differentiate what is right from what is wrong. There is no doubt that every community in Nigeria will have no problem to denounce stealing either in the household or in the state as a wrong practice; to abhor murder either of friends or of enemies; to reject fraud or pen robbery or armed robbery as a business practice; to condemn vulgar ostentation and wastefulness in household or state; and to reject calumny, blackmail and barbarity as strategic institutional weapons of the state for the maintenance of law and order. Yet these are the sins Babangida and Abacha along with their cohorts stand accused. 

Therefore, for any Nigerian to believe that all these things can be swept under the carpet without repentance, sanctions and forgiveness is a puerile delusion. For all those who stole from our treasury and who continue to wallow in abundance while their fellow compatriots are in want it is definitely taking an unnecessary stupid risk against the anger of the people when it finally boils over. For all those who built and live in fortified and well-guarded bunkers all over the country with money corruptly made from over-invoicing scams of government contracts, foreign exchange speculations and manipulations, dubious bribery and frauds, and many other such 419s and are still pretending that Nigerians are unaware of the source of this loot, don’t wait for the anger of the people to boil over before you make amends. To all our cruel secret agents who became lapdogs of the powers that be for the sake of bread and butter, it is high time you recanted and told it all to the people everything you knew about your masters if you want forgiveness from the people.

We must heal the land by truthfulness, repentance and forgiveness. No sinner can go unpunished. It is better to come forward to confess and to seek forgiveness than to be forced to do so. For those of you sitting on uncountable fund that can never be used in ten lifetimes, turn it all to your community after truthfully confessing where it came from. Seek their understanding and forgiveness after a truthful confession. Don’t attempt to lord it over them because you are in custody of stolen booty. You must show a sense of remorse and humility if you want the community to accept your albatross burden. If you are still in doubt about the uselessness and futility of the burden around your person, let us borrow from the wisdom of Socrates, the father of philosophy:

“Are you not ashamed that you give your attention to acquiring as much money as possible and similarly reputation and honour, and give no thought to truth and understanding and the perfection of your soul? … I spend all my time going about trying to persuade you, young and old to make your first and chief concern not for your bodies nor for your possessions, but for the highest welfare of your souls…. Wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessings, both to the individual and to the state” 

This is the true way forward. This direction has never been trodden before anywhere on this planet but Nigeria shall blaze the trail for others to follow. It is the definitive mark of the beginning of millennium of peace on this planet. Nigeria is the epicentre of a mighty spiritual revolution on earth. The above suggestions at a glance may look unrealistic and impossible. But it is the way of The Spirit of Truth who has chosen Nigeria as its campsite for the global operation of cleansing, love and peace. This is the way Nigeria shall follow. It is the path of truth, knowledge, love and peace. 

May every penitent sinner in Nigeria find peace and forgiveness. May The Creator of Heaven and Earth forgive you as soon as you humbly seek the eye and the mercy of The Lord. May you find mercy, compassion and forgiveness from your neighbours and families. And may the light and grace of The Lord that passes all understanding heal and bless our land and our souls from now on and forever more.
 
 

NOTES


1Plato,'The Apology' in The Last Days of Socrates. Trans. by Hugh Tredennick, 1969.Great Britain: Penguin. Pp. 61-62.
2 Umaru Shinkafi’s statement quoted from Akin Oshuntokun's 'Between Obasanjo And Shinkafi' in The Guardian on Sunday, June 28, 1998.
3 ibid.
4 Immanuel Wallerstein, Africa: The Politics of Unity. LondonPall Mall.1968.
5 O. Awolowo, Path to Nigeria Freedom. London. 1947 p.31 (Awolowo quoted the statement from the Official Report of Conference of the Northern Chiefs held in 1942 being their ‘response to a letter written by the West African Students’ Union in London appealing to the Northern emirs and their people for co-operation with those in the South in tackling problems of Nigeria identified by the students.’)
6 Michael Crowder, The Story of NigeriaLondon: Faber and Faber. 1962. 
7 Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince. Translated by C. E. Detmold.Introduction by Lucille Margaret Kekewich.Great Britain: Wordsworth Classics of World Literature.1997. p.33.
8 Sir A. B. Ellis The Ewe-Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa’ London 1890. p.9. (Quoted from Ndabaningi Sithole, African Nationalism. Oxford. 1959. p.121.)
9 Thomas Hobbes. ‘Leviathan: Or Matter, Form and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclessiaciastical and Civil’.Edited by Nelle Fuller in The Great Books of The Western World. Vol.23. Chicago:Encyclopeadia Britannical. 1952.
10 Obafemi Awolowo,Path to Nigerian Freedom. 1947. p.22.
11 ibid. p.22
12 Rueben Abati, ‘The Crazy Trains of Death’ in The Guardian on Sunday. Volume 15, No. 7,301.November 8, 1998.
13 Mark Philp (ed.) Thomas Paine: Rights of Man and other Political Writings.OxfordUniversity Press. 1995. p. 5.

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