Tampering With a Time-Bomb

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“Can you even hold a gun?” “Shut up, if you see a real war, you will pee in your trousers!” “War is not for the feeble-minded like you!”

These are things we hear when paranoid civilians talk tough, consider getting armed, anytime they register their distrust for the system they expect to protect them from the criminally armed groups that consider them pests over differences in regional, religious, ethnic or political affiliations.

We dismiss such outbursts as “wishful thinking”, assuming that the speakers are our dear friends and, for that, incapable of harming even a stray goat. What we do not apply to such situation is our knowledge of the human psychology: all human beings, even the most puritanical of humanists, are potential beasts when pushed to the cliff of a misfortune for which they have to “respond in kind” to stay alive.

It’s not a war, unless there’s a counterattack or self-defence. So the seemingly cowardly citizens losing their hope in the politicised security arrangements of the nation should not be ignored, with our usual undermining of their capability to harm. And I can rightly identify with the consequences of unmediated provocations and unapologetically designed self-defence. I saw this in Jos, Nigeria’s hospice of hate, and proof of man’s animalistic tendencies. In my years in, and following of, Jos, I witnessed the mental corruption and death of some of my neighbourhood boys, people who, before the conflicts, could scamper on sighting even a roach approaching them. I saw the anger of the previously innocent, and of especially the bereaved, thirsting for vengeance, for counterattack, for self-defence, for conflict…

One of these boys, an amiable younger boy that used to run errands for us and even eventually relocated to our place out of mutual trust, became a fearless “self-defender” during one of the crises in the once beautiful city. In my encounter with him after a certain crisis, he was not only philosophical about the necessity of defending one’s threatened community and existence, but he boastfully shared his experiences of the internecine fighting, recounting the ease with which humans died, and the comedy of mortality. I stopped him from telling the stories, outraged and even called him names for being thus remorseless.

“What would you have done if you’re surrounded by armed enemies intending to kill you, Gimba? Tell me!”

I wasn’t interested in the discussion, so I didn’t respond. But in retrospect, I realised that I was also not fair in judging him, without sensitivity to the contexts and circumstances that revived his inhumanity – which is an affliction that resides in all of us, when pushed to that cliff where staying alive is only by terminating the invading enemy.

Jos thought me a lesson: we’re all circumstantial killers and potential beasts. Which is why we must stop saying that “Nigerians are cowards” whenever we’re talking about revolutions and wars, for the same “cowardly” Nigerians now strap explosives to themselves, form militant groups and terrorist cults, to kill fellow citizens, human beings. So I’m not unconcerned by the rumours that some places of worships, which ought to be for incubation of faith, are now stocking arms – for attacks, for self-defence, for counterattacks.

We must find ways to douse the tensions now that our politicians are becoming desperate and bitter, and warier we must also become of this pathetically unserious government that keeps giving even the analysts who had given it the benefit of the doubt, reasons to suspect it, to distrust its sincerity in protecting the people.

Sadly, the ruling party has shown its approval of this climate of distrust and incompetence, with the adoption this week of President Goodluck Jonathan as its candidate again for the 2015 presidential election in the very week the citizens are questioning the same man for suspicious rapports with the hateful and uncritically partisan President of Christian Association of Nigeria, Ayo Oritsejafor, whose private jet is now involved in an arms smuggling scandal.

I once wrote in praise of the Christians who did not heed Pastor Oritsejafor’s call for Christians in Nigeria to defend themselves “with whatever is available to them”, knowing that could be interpreted as declaration of war on even the accommodating Muslim communities, and I’m even satisfied now that practising Christians, including catholic Bishops who have renounced membership of CAN, are among the frontline critics of the Pastor’s ill-devised polarising stunts. The interception of his private jet in South Africa with about $10 million meant for arms purchase is an issue of serious national risk, ownership of which the federal government has unconvincingly claimed.

But, while the “conspiracy theorists” have already concluded that the arms are for planned killings of Muslims and northerners and covert sponsorship of the Boko Haram, a judgment inspired by their perceptions of the man’s hate-mongering antecedents, my understanding that some key security organisations of the country, which are parts of the government, are under Muslims and northerners frustrate approval of that conspiracy.

Perhaps, for explanations on this dangerous suspicion of the government, our conspiracy theorists, and this isn’t a mischief, need to ally and march to the offices of their brothers in this government: Sambo Dasuki, National Security Adviser; Abba Suleiman, Inspector-General of Police; Namadi Sambo, Vice-President; Adamu Mu’azu, PDP National Chairman; Ibrahim Lamorde, EFCC Chairman; Abdullah Dikko Inde, Comptroller-General of Customs; Aminu Waziri Tambuwwal, Speaker House of Representatives; amongst others, people whose complicity is necessary for the success of Oritsejafor’s, and even Goodluck’s, covert sponsorship of terrorism, people capable of knowing whether the arms are meant for our security agencies, and also to confirm whether the cash transaction method is employed in this deal so that the digitally snoopy America will not know. And if found guilty, we must also remember that the Chief Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, is a Muslim and northerner, and potential victim of this anti-north conspiracy.

Perhaps, if the conspiracy theorists succeed in convincing fellow Muslims and northerners in this government to bring Jonathan down, for conspiring to purchase arms to destroy the north, our Justice Aloma won’t be merciful in sentencing him to life in prison. How about that?

On a serious note, there’s a need to unite, more than ever, regardless of our religious and ethnic differences and regional solidarity, to defuse the time-bomb code-named “2015”. Even this Oritsejafor’s Jet scandal is a confirmation that Jonathan has failed as a consummate leader of a nation in need of unifying public figures, and the reality that he has just been given another opportunity by his party to mismanage our funds and trust for another four years, which is now very obvious, should be a reason for us to be sober about the future of Nigeria.

If you think it’s possible to oust a sitting President, one responsible for management of the nation’s resources, one whose platform is designed to appeal to prebendal politics, in a country where accountability is a myth, in a system where $20 billon has been declared missing and nothing happened, be getting ready to visit a therapist in the first quarter of 2015. For the opposition, without a doubt, is incapable of matching the “Stomach Infrastructure” politics of the ruling party, kobo to kobo. 2015 is already being approached with reckless sentiments, and with insensitivity to our fault-lines. Sadly, when this bomb goes off, the political elite, including the ones promoting these divisive sentiments, would be in their comfort zones or even “holidaying” overseas, and the causality would be members of the impressionable class: the politically outsmarted, handout-receiving masses. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

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The Dangerous Shows for 2015

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As the period running up to the 2011 presidential election portended omens of tragedy for intuitive citizens, the current period, four years later, should rattle even those who were then indifferent. This must be a phase for overcoming whatever instigated their moral dilemma.

My concern about Nigeria became disturbed this week on sighting a Borno Express cross-country bus with a poster of Governor Kashim Shettima, seeking re-election, seemingly seeking another term of terrorised living in office. How is it that our politicians, crying that their Office threatens their existence and sanity, are desperate to remain in that same Office? It must be a sort of greed for the trappings of State Power.

The main culprit of this dangerous greed is the President, under whom the country has lost its bearing, so much so that even his most indecorous media aides, confused in the social media, are now calling on “God”, advising citizens to “pray” for an end to what such aides’ principals were elected, and granted enormous State resources, to curb. And for lack of explanations for their principals’ legendary cluelessness, they’ve been tweeting verses from the Bible, to appeal to the sentiments of the gullible.

But a show of greed and shame, even more indicative and damning than the President and the Governor’s desperate bid to remain in power is clearly that of the citizens “procured”, as Dr. Oby Ezekwesili once said of hired protesters, to champion the re-election campaign of the same President Goodluck Jonathan whose administration, for seeming incapability, has not heeded the plea to rescue the hundreds of his subjects who have been in captivity for the past 150 days! And to highlight their inhumanity, these procured protesters launched #BringBackGoodluck2015 billboards, signs and hashtags to ridicule the demands of unrelenting #BringBackOurGirls.

That unpardonable blasphemy drew the outrage of the civil society, the main opposition party and even the fence-sitting observers. But it was Washington Post’s globalisation of the undermined citizens’ outrage in its coverage of that PR blunder, referring to it as “the most inappropriate political hashtag of the year”, that finally jostled the presidency, forcing the President to react – to lie, that is – that he was ignorant of that well-publicised campaign for his re-election, even though the campaign was officially recognised by the Presidency, having been fanatically promoted by the President’s politically rash Senior Special Assistant Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe.

What further frustrates the possibility of ousting the cunning government or having citizens forming alliances against it, are the divisive publications on the complicity of some friends and allies of the government revealed by an Australian named Stephen Davis, and uncritically popularised by some prominent elements of the main opposition party, the APC.

Instead of having Davis’ so-called revelations adopted for careful analysis, Nigerians, including a prominent and prominently diminutive member of the opposition, contributed to the confusion by not only endorsing the Australian’s claims that certain people, both Muslim and Christian, were responsible for funding of the Boko Haram insurgents, but that the sect also has political and Christian variants, backing the claims up with lame inferences that can only appeal to the senses of a unintelligent conspiracy theorist, an unthinking escapist.

Sadly, some of these people practice, or have backgrounds in, Law. This makes me wonder, why would a lawyer, trained in challenging facts, also embark on adopting uncorroborated claims, conspiracy theories, as proofs or confirmations of certain suspicions? Even in the court of law, circumstantial evidences are not adopted as unchallenged proofs, so sharing inferences as proofs is a clear mischief. You don’t spend these five years in the department of Law, and then memorably torturous months at the law school, only to end up going against the ethics of your training in such an outrageous way. I thought lawyers should be our models in obsessing about evidences and the absence of them, even in our public discourse?

If a lawyer’s mindset had been employed in assessing these confusing claims, even Davis wouldn’t have made a newspaper headline. And this instinct would’ve challenged us to ask whether Boko Haram that operates in secret, would reveal the sources of its funds to a negotiating stranger – especially to a white man who, as Christian or atheist, western, and believer in liberal democracy, is a portrait of all they aspire to crush? The Boko Haram didn’t remain elusive this long by being tactically stupid, as portrayed by Davis. And if its leaders were as careless with details of their operations as also portrayed by Davis, they would’ve been crushed long ago!

There’s a need for us, and especially the opposition party, to employ reason, instead of sentiments, in promoting some of these embarrassingly petty conspiracy theories. The opposition must understand that if you fight this government with flawed statistics and hearsays and polarisation, you’re just making the return to Aso Rock easier for GEJ. If they want to replace GEJ, whose Ph.D I now suspect is in divisive politics, on the back of polarising sentiments, then they must be very prepared for an embarrassing defeat in 2015. What keeps APC going are sympathies, sympathies of a people in need of change, sympathies of a people willing to give them a chance despite obvious flaws. But it needs men of model conduct representing its interests in the media.

My only fear, which has become a looming apparition now, is the memory of the gory revolts that followed the announcements of the results of 2011 presidential election in the north. We must not prepare these impressionable members of the lower-class for another horror history, which is what some of these politicians do by promoting unverified claims to gain relevance and be seen as “rights ambassadors”, whereas they’re everything but selfless in their pursuits of political power.

But the underclass is not the only trouble with electing ideal candidates in Nigeria. While poverty dispossesses the underclass of ability to be rational, sycophancy ravages the middle-class. This way, with these syndromes, the sycophantic members of the middle-class contracted by the government to form about 8000 pro-Jonathan campaign groups, also procured the cheaper under-class as foot-soldiers of Transformation Actors of Nigeria, which they prefer to call “Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria”, and other 7999 groups.

Today, in its nearly 64 years in existence, the main thriving industry in Nigeria, with productivity higher than the Oil industry, is Sycophancy. It represses existing and proposed political resistance. The poverty of the underclass and the sycophancy of the middle-class are the reason idealism is DOA in Nigeria. Sometimes, in pursuits of idealism, you go out campaigning for core visionary leaders, and return home only to realise that your lunch was made with “gifts” by, or bought with money given, by a fraudulently prebendal politician.

This is how the two social classes betray promising leaders.

The last time Gani Fawehinmi aspired to lead this country, our rejection of his bid was almost unanimous. And I doubt if there has ever been a politically awakened individual who had stood up for the masses, in the race to the Office of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, comparable to the model civil rights advocate.

In fact, if our politics is sincerely all about “personality”, Buhari himself cannot beat Gani, who resisted even the military extremisms of the Buharis. We’re in a country where idealism is a myth, but this shouldn’t be an excuse to allow hired paupers and contracted sycophants forestall our struggle for change.

So, we need to task our presidential candidates to offer us something other than romanticisations of their personalities, something concrete, an implementable development plan for redeeming this changing Nigeria. This “I did not steal a kobo” campaign is beginning to sound like GEJ’s “I had no shoes” scam of that unfortunate 2011. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

A Brief History of Democratic Chaos

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Fifteen years after Nigeria’s return to democracy, the leadership challenges, which were the demerits of the regimes of the soldiers before it, have only become worse. Contrary to the excuse that ours is still “nascent democracy”, a self-deception promoted by the optimists infatuated with the country despite its bad political mannerisms, fifteen years are long enough for the transformation of a nation. But, instead of allying to form a powerful army of reasons against the ruling elite, we allow ourselves to be turned into an uncritical majority still lounging to understand what democracy, a system that has been exhaustively developed by our mentors in the West, really is!

When General Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired soldier and former military president already in his sixties, was elected in 1999, Nigerians were not impressed. And they had their reasons. They were tired of the old faces, especially from the same establishment that had turned the fortunes of the nation upside down. The President of their choice had to be of this specification: civilian with no record of involvements in the affairs of the soldiers, young in the biology of Nigerian politics and, very importantly, educated! – and they were specifically interested in a citizen not educated at the Nigerian Defence Academy, the laboratory of the monstrous leaders who had disabled the vital organs of the country.

On losing his fight to stay beyond constitutionally approved terms – old habits hardly die, you know – General Obasanjo heeded the citizens’ demands for a Nigerian who was educated, a proper graduate, and young. The result was 55-year-old graduate of Chemistry/Education, with a master’s in Analytical Chemistry: Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua. No, he didn’t turn the State House into a science laboratory, and it was not his will that the State House only became his hospital and the Seat of Power his passage way unto the world beyond. But that was not what really disturbed the sentimental Nigerians. They said, though Yar’adua was truly young and educated, he was an aje-bota (sadly there’s a certain stigma in being from a wealthy family, privileged), and he’s from the Hausa-Fulani ruling class (the theory has always been that the Hausa-Fulani, a misnomer for the northern elite, exhibits a despicable born-to-rule mentality in their yearnings for political powers).

The sentiments against Yar’adua, quite unsurprisingly, favoured his deputy, a southerner from the hypothetically marginalised minority and oil-producing region, who, during his campaign for the Office of the President after the passing of his principal, told the electorate who had also celebrated his credentials as a Ph.D. that he had no shoes growing up. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is the product of our accumulated sentiments over these years of mis-governance: non-soldier, non-ajebota, non-northerner, non-Hausa-Fulani, non-aristocrat, non-privileged… Goodluck Jonathan.

Under this “ajepako graduate from the minority”, awaiting the promised Transformation Agenda, which he promised to deliver as part of his fabled Fresh Air of change, we all graduated into worse level of predicaments in which we’ve realised, the hard way, that he’s no doubt a certified scholar of cluelessness, one unfit to serve, even in his area of expertise, as a zoo keeper. Sure, I’m a witness to his failing. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that while his predecessor, a chemist, turned the State House into drug-consuming chamber, he, a zoologist, has turned the country into an animal kingdom where a certain Abubakar Shekau had declared a “fringe” of the country independent of the government of the federal republic of Nigeria – and even proved this psychobabble as a fact by chasing 480(!) armed soldiers out of the territory of Nigeria, into Cameroon!

When individual merits are played down by sentimental voters, prepare for such depressing realities. But the sad thing is, our political education is so poor that President Jonathan is only seen as a variable of the “federal character” by the sentimental bunch, not as the testifiably failed leader he is. We have clearly completed a 360-degree turn in this experiment in choice of leaders from the lens of ethno-religious and regional sentiments, but that lessons have been learnt is not quite confirmed yet.

I understand that some Nigerians, including close friends, who voted for this President based on the sentiments that a man from the minority ethnic group, and from a region that is “our breadwinner” needed to be in power, have regretted the very act. What they haven’t really understood is that Nigeria has never, at any time and occasion, functioned without the participation of members of all ethnic groups and religions and regions in the ruins. What they haven’t acknowledged is the complexity of this country, and that Goodluck Jonathan was not the first representative of the minority ethnic groups in government. Yes, because even the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, was from the minority ethnic group in Bauchi State. General Yakubu Gowon, a Christian, who was head of state for nine years, in the years the young Goodluck Jonathan had no shoes, is also from the minority. The last time I checked even General Sani Abacha was Kanuri. The identities of Generals Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Abdulsalam Abubakar, both of Niger State, have always been elusive, never really approved as members of the “actual” Hausa-Fulani!

Our obsessions with sentiments have dispossessed us of ordinary ability to realise that the underdevelopment of Nigeria is a collective sin of a socio-political class in which privileged members of every religion, ethnicity and region are represented, and thus the rant that the maladministration of a particular government was the fault of a specific ethnic group should actually be aimed at all members of the ruling elite involved.

We must regain our application of reasons in the time of moral conflict if indeed we’re interested in ending this 15-year-old experiment in flawed democratic choices. In a sane country, a government that couldn’t rescue over 200 of its citizens in captivity won’t even have the moral courage to face its citizens, let along make an attempt to seek re-election. It would only complete its tenure with sincere apology to the actually and conditionally bereaved parents of the forsaken citizens it took an oath to protect!

So, as 2015 approaches, the question still remains: what and who do Nigerians really want? A Muslim, Christian, Hausa, Igbo, Nupe or a politically awakened Nigerian? Whoever aspires to change this country has to be really courageous, and let him come prepared that he may not be re-elected, for this country doesn’t “deserve” good men. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter