AKINOLA: SOMEHOW, ATIKU COULD BE RIGHT
A GOAT does not bite; however, there is this saying by the Yoruba that a goat can bite if driven against the wall. Of course every statement should be interpreted in the context in which it is made, but there is nothing really wrong in warning a people about an impending danger. It is a classic statement, applicable in all spheres of human endeavour, that 'those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable'
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, erstwhile Vice-President and now presidential aspirant under the platform of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) might have warned of a possible violence in a rather selfish context as his critics would insist he did, that warning itself should however be heeded in the context of our failings since independence in 1960. Our nation is rotten, prompting the well-cultured and much-respected Professor Benedict Nwabueze to advocate, rather out of character, a bloody revolution as panacea to the ills we celebrate in Nigeria.
Let us, for instance, take the conduct of our elections as one example. The failure to make a peaceful change possible via electoral outcome led to the violent overthrow, by coupists, of the First Republic on January 15, 1966. The politics of the First Republic was characterised by election rigging, both at regional and federal levels, of which that of the defunct Western Region in 1965 was the most blatant display of contempt for the feelings and aspirations of ordinary Nigerians by their so-called politicians. The fall of the Second Republic in 1983, on similar grounds, merely confirmed we are a people who hardly learn from history. Thankfully the courts now intervene to redress cases of electoral fraud, but for how long must we continue to flaunt our crudity before the rest of the world? Must the responsibility to determine who has won and who has not won an election now be ceded to the judicial arm of government?
We have elections slated for April 2011, but the fears we have always had about elections persist. Fear about political murders and assassinations is further exacerbated by a more devastating new culture of bomb blasts. The ranks and files of political thugs now have unemployed university graduates as recruits. The act of election rigging is being perfected on a daily basis, as confirmed by the recent theft of Direct Data Capturing Machines from an aircraft at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport. It is doubtful if such a theft could have been committed without the knowledge of powerful but dishonest politicians and the complicity of airport officials; the latter, corrupt as they ever are, can be trusted to agree to anything that has monetary reward.
Corruption itself is one culture that could soon compel violence in the Nigerian polity. Nigeria ranks among the most corrupt nations of the world, often alternating between first and second political office holders enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers, in a society where most worship wealth rather than be bothered by its source. Any foreigner coming into Nigeria for the first time would know from our international airports that he or she is visiting a corrupt nation One recently visited Nigeria having travelled via Heathrow in Britain and De Gaule Airport in France, but it was at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport that one got reminded of how crude human beings can be. Officials in uniform openly demand bribes and disgracefully beg for gifts. Every Nigerian including President Goodluck Jonathan knows that their nation is shamed right from its entry point.
What about our law-makers cornering about 25 per-cent of our national income to themselves? Dr. Lamido Sanusi, Governor of the Central Bank openly confronted these privileged Nigerians about their greed and profligacy to the delight of the rest of us. The greedy law-makers did not like his audacity but his was one kind of audacity of hope we so much cherish. Nigeria has earned so much from crude oil but with nothing to show for it in terms of development. The roads are bad; the hospitals are mere consulting clinics; our educational system is in consistent decline, the supply of electricity is epileptic, while that of water is equally unreliable in a nation that has most part of it in the rain forest.
Ghana, one of our neighbouring countries, is doing quite well. It should be worrying to our politicians, particularly our key leaders, that many Nigerians attribute the success of Ghana to the bloody revolt of Jerry Rawlings. Many wish to see the blood of their oppressors flow in the streets, they like to see those responsible for their economic plight tied to the stakes and given the Rawlings treatment. It should be recalled that, on July 16, 1979, Flt-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings ordered the execution, by firing squad, of three former Heads of State, along with five other senior military officers, for various offences which include corruption. We hardly need an Atiku to warn of the inevitability of such a violent intervention because our politicians have been deliberately calling for it through their actions and inactions.
Even if Atiku Abubakar was talking from a selfish point of view, do we have to experience another national crisis before resolving a critical problem of nationhood known to all of us? Our politicians are selfish, opportunistic and dishonest. The opportunities to redress the imbalance in our federation were wasted in the pursuit of selfish, short-term agenda. One recent example was the so-called constitutional conference sponsored by the administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo with the sole intention of ratifying a third-term agenda.
There was a popular clamour at that time for the principle of leadership rotation to be entrenched in the constitution, but a great opportunity was wasted. It should be recollected that every major crisis in our unique federation, since independence in 1960, has revolved around leadership and a more honest and pragmatic people would have since proffered a realistic solution to it. The saying that things can only get better after they have become worst could suggest there are some harsh lessons to be learnt.
• Dr. Akinola lives in Oxford, England