Dear Alice or Nigeria’s Long Night
Alice, your question about my thoughts on the coming election was not ignored. No, understand my silence. I’ve also been thinking about the polls. Honestly, I’ve been thinking. And now, I’m reverting to the big question.
—Okay. Say it. Say your mind. Make it as raw as possible. Yes, you are a brave man. —
I’ll tell you what I think, Alice. The bourgeoisie has punctured our ballooning hope. You were away in Suffolk when the Traditional Grand Parties decided who would bear their flags. You, Young people, are easily carried away. You thought Yẹmi Oṣinbajọ would clinch the ticket for the All-Progressives Congress, and some easterner, an Igbo, most likely Peter Obi would clinch the presidential ticket for the People’s Democratic Party. And then, the debates will begin with sophistication. We will all be divided between two moderate devils.
—Yeah, tell her about the devils. It makes sense. —
Unlike the old kola nut-stained fangs in deceitful agbada or babanriga or George…you know, those things you show visitors at the embassies of Nigeria around the world. You know their names… Unlike those devils, these ones are moderate, mildly capable of understanding the dreams and aspirations of new Nigerians like you and me. They are innocuous devils because they care about what people think.
—”Nigeria is a dreaming country”. Tell her that. —
You know these things, Alice. We dream of better times, justice and good food in the belly. But some people, like your parents, have seceded from our collective dream, stopped dreaming altogether, packed their tattered rags, and escaped from the nasty, brutish, short life in Nigeria to another country.
—I almost said, “British”. Lol. The nasty British gave us this nasty brutishness for life from their immoral machinations… You have read the history books. You know what scandalous revelations are contained therein. —
We dream in Nigeria. But that dream now counts the wasted years, almost hopelessly prolonged enough to be a trance. I wonder if this is not a precursor to the death of a nation. The giant of Africa is a sluggard dreaming, a drunk fast asleep in the sun like a mountain of lime. Stretched out in the middle of the earth, the sleeping giant of Africa is in a prolonged coma, in a trance, dreaming of a beautiful morning when it awakes to global (lime)light. But for now, it snores and drools. The vultures have gathered around it again in the hope of a feast. It’s the year of our Lord 2023. The year of Nigeria’s leadership change.
—Not much of a change. We’re just downloading old files from the recycle bin. —
Alice, I’ll be frank: this election poses no advantage for political progress. You told me you are bored and embarrassed by the choices of the Traditional Grand Parties. I laughed at your romanticism. You always want leaders who are “presentable”, with sleek personalities like Barrack Obama or Sadiq Khan.
I feel your disappointment. Seriously, I do. What do you expect? The Nigerian bourgeoisie knows how unwilling the people are to revolt. They know they can afford to rob them of their political desires and impose their interest by paying off the comprador bourgeoisie with cash. That’s what you saw at the TGP primaries that got you furious. I’m sure you thought the comprador bourgeoisie would fight to make the elections interesting. Well, elections are not entirely a romantic venture. Sorry. The comprador bourgeoisie has convinced itself that Nigeria is not ready for sleek leaders. They say Nigeria wants only kola nut-stained fangs to rule it. You know, I asked them how we went from Nnamdi Azikiwe, Aminu Kano and Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ to the state of unreadiness. Nigeria is not ready for good things. Only kola nut-stained fangs. Those who are not sleek but hold the cash. They pay the comprador bourgeoisie and buy our national meal ticket. So, we’ll go on a cassava diet for another four years. He who feeds the greedy dictates his destiny.
—There’s a maize supplement. We can make ogi. There are enough lactating cows on the highways to give milk. Ogi and milk. Yummy. —
“Can white ogi come out of the black pot?” you asked. My conviction is that the pot is poisoned. White ogi, red ogi, yellow ogi. Whosoever consumes will fall ill.
What do I think about them? Alice, you know what I think. I have refrained from answering the question because I am unsure if my genuine response will make any significant difference. I’m a member of a generation that is grappling with the personal questions of life and is mostly unbothered by bourgeois politics. Only a few have the privilege of having power. Nevertheless, I’ll answer.
Firstly. Alice, although you are British, your natural country is Nigeria. I am no British, nor do I wish to be. I am a Nigerian first with personal convictions. I cringe at the word “nationalist”, but the circumstances have made me into a patriot pro-max. Nigeria must work if we Africans will get the answer right to our continental underdevelopment. Basic as that reads, it’s the single truth we now agree on; from Lampedusa to the tip of the Cape and from Antananarivo to Gibraltar. For that prophesy to be fulfilled, the continuity of Nigeria is sacrosanct. Hence, I make my political decisions based on that simple national idea. Every day, however, that idea is being questioned, and increasingly, the country’s life is being threatened. I’ll explain that basic idea when I can afford the time cost. Presently, what’s important is my opinion of the candidates. Isn’t that one of the questions you have been asking me repeatedly?
Second, I browsed through the portfolios of the ticket winners. Not for the interesting details they may offer. It was all due to coincidence. I have been stumbling on autobiographical sketches and fragments of their personal histories. They don’t mean much; only give shape to one’s judgment. Period. I’ll proceed to share my opinion on their position in the history of this boring general election.
The elephant in the room – Tinubu. If I told you Tinubu was a great man in his heydays, you might be tempted to stop reading. But Alice, you are a Gen Z. Even millennials do not consciously remember the days of Abacha’s tyranny. What we heard from our parents, uncles, and aunties and the rumours that reached us were what we knew growing up. Growing up, I kept hearing his name repeatedly as part of the core NADECO activists who buried the military rule in Nigeria for all time. He served Nigeria well in that struggle, for which I cannot easily disparage his health status. Being hounded by the forces of the state for a protracted period has a varying effect in old age. I told you about Jude, a former student activist fighting Abacha’s tyranny and my teacher, who was locked up in an underground prison at Kiri-Kiri in Lagos during harmattan. Remember him? He developed a permanent cold. Jude is plagued with a runny nose for life. Whatever old age has brought Mr Tinubu, its manifestations are obvious. In my opinion, the President of Nigeria should not have to be represented in public all the time. If that man becomes Nigeria’s president, the continuous embarrassment of the country in the world is guaranteed. If Mr Tinubu was the “elder statesman” he’s been said to be, there are enough qualified persons to choose from his clique and give his blessings. His adamancy has shattered that “elder statesman” illusion.
—What if he dies? Tell her what happens to Nigeria. Say it. Yes. Be bold. Tell her a reprobate becomes the leader of Nigeria. It will interest her. —
Worse still, Alice is if Mr Tinubu dies. Do you remember April 14, 2014? Yes, it’s the same Governor Shettima who allowed Boko Haram to take 271 girls from a school in Chibok who would become President of Nigeria. We reward reprobates with offices, and their critics are jailed. Do you also know that Mr Shettima is a Muslim like Mr Tinubu? Two Muslims running on a joint ticket in the middle of a religious conflagration. I read your angry tweet the other day. Alice, it doesn’t matter what religion you belong to in the real sense. What matters is your thoughts about fundamentalist manifestations. Two Muslims can be President and Vice President for all I care. We’ve had several Christian-Christian structures in Nigeria, and not one dog barked. It’s a democracy that allows you to reject such a non-issue if you think it threatens you. But the kind of Muslim we are talking about here has close links with Boko Haram. Beyond that, I cannot speak for northern Christians who are murdered violently every day in the northern states of Nigeria. Religion, to them, is a political reality that I have scarcely experienced. What I know is that they hold the most important opinion on the question of a Muslim coalition. My concern is the individual and his antecedents with Islamo-fascism.
—Leave it there. Your point is well understood. Whoever doesn’t understand can reread it. —
Peter Obi and the Nigerian question.
If we are concerned about standing on the right side of history, righting the wrong of the past, etcetera, a southerner of Igbo/southeastern extraction should justifiably be on the People’s Democratic Party presidential ticket. There are many reasons.
One: – the Igbos are a victim of exclusion. When their Yoruba counterparts reminded the nation of the victimization, it suffered in 1993, the presidential ticket was zoned to western Nigeria to compensate for Late M.K.O. Abiọla. Alice, you are Yoruba. Think about it.
Two: – a musician with the brain of a mosquito said the Igbos are immature for politics and cannot be trusted with power. He’s only speaking the mind of his fellow reprobates whose stupidity only justifies the fascist clamour for Biafra. Pray, the Igbo aligned with Oluṣẹgun Ọbasanjọ (South West) in 1999, 2003; Umaru Musa-Yar’adua (North West) in 2007; Goodluck Jonathan (South-South) in 2011 and Atiku Abubakar (North East) in 2019. They’ve been servicing the PDP for 23 years. What else do these reprobates want as proof? You may ask. They don’t want proof. They’re cretins whom God has left altogether so they can dine with the swine.
But you know, I have counselled against the fascist tendency among the supporters of Mr Obi and his running mate Datti. That you believe a man is a superior candidate doesn’t mean others cannot believe the opposite. That I believe Obi doesn’t mean others cannot believe Tinubu. Again, live and let live. Period. Regardless of whether Obi has successfully disrupted Nigeria’s political tradition, the movement around him must be rooted in ideology. It is dangerous if it is not.
Soworẹ and the failure of the left.
If there’s any candidate the third force should regard, it is Soworẹ. Truly. You laughed when I mentioned his name last night. But I don’t find it funny. Here, Alice, I have to be careful with my analysis. I cannot blame this man for the failure of the Nigerian left. It failed decades before he rose to political recognition.
See, in 1998, when the comprador bourgeoisie was mobilizing to take over the power vacuum the military was leaving behind, the left stepped aside. After they had fought and lost lives, properties, loved ones and limbs, they stepped aside and stubbornly watched their gains slither away. They said the military didn’t do the transition properly. Can anyone be more foolish? By the time they realized their folly, the bourgeoisie had taken over. They ran for elections to cover their loss and lost. They came back beaten. So great was their loss that even our ancestors in heaven could not help but laugh. They lost power; they lost their country despite numerous warnings. But for what? Bravado! They were too proud to wrestle in the mud. They wanted to be seen as clean. Too clean for the murky political waters of Nigeria. In the end, they gained what they cherished more; public adulation…but lost power.
Then they grew lonely, cold, and sort of companionship. Alice, they found themselves in bed cuddling with the leftovers from the same Abacha regime that nearly annihilated them. Shamefully, they returned to their vomit, queuing behind a murderous former dictator in 2015 and branded him a messiah to oust the incumbent government.
—Isn’t that dark magic? No be juju be that? —
A self-professed ultra-rightist was whitewashed and presented in the robes of a saviour. Such callousness? I’m not gloating that many makers of the monster tasted from the pain they wished upon Nigeria. Still, Soworẹ himself – ever in denial of complicity in the rise of the symbol of ultra-rightism – is in incarceration. The Nigerian left had the chance to be wise, but it was not.
Yes, you referred to the man’s “carriage”. You might be correct, although I believe he’s not given the illusion of grandeur. But then, I concede that how a politician carries himself impacts public opinion on him. He’s not the first revolutionary in the history of the world, nor the third world. V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Ho Chi Minh, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, the Kims, Mao Zedong, and Fidel Castro all had a courteous tinge of charisma. Prim, proper, “presidential”, revolutionary, radical, and opinionated. The street is a normal presence in the Nigerian psyche, but everything a revolutionary politician does must be moderate. Some seriousness here, some joviality there. A little frown here, a burst of muffled laughter there. Little jibes with maturity, you can laugh at yourself but be reclusive. One way or another, we all have a loose end. Charisma is a political tactic you cannot ignore. This has been the advantage of successful left candidates. We cannot say those well-known leaders of important mass movements that have shaken the country to its roots are all mischievous or foolish.
Again, Alice, the national question is the primacy of my political participation.
You said it going to be a boring election. I believe you meant to say “inconsequential”. Well, I say it will be of little advantage to our security, economy, or standing in the world. I hope for the sake of the poor and wretched people of Nigeria that I am wrong.
By the way, happy new year, dearie. You will have your gift when I visit.
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