Monday, August 30, 2010

Journey To Bloodshed

Written by Sonala Olumhense

I am a Christian.  My faith does not approve of murder, although history has indicted many a Christian for murder and sundry mayhem. There are many ways in which faith in God is truly special.  One of them is that it teaches the sanctity of human life.  A man is only as wise as the extent to which he realizes that his life is not his.  Life is so special man cannot create it. But while religion may be categorical about the sanctity of life, it does not seem to teach respect for it so well.  That may partly explain why the poor hesitate to take even the life of their oppressors, even when those victimisers are ruthlessly sucking the very blood out of them..

The difference may be that the poor still have access to a certain inner little voice.  It is probably no more than the echo of hunger in that cavernous no-man’s land between the stomach and the small intestine, but when you have nothing, you have plenty of pauses between thought and action.  Those pauses, those rumblings, are often quite clear: you do not take life.

The same rule, curiously, does not apply to the rich, for whom that little voice seems to have been paid off.  They take what they want and move on lest they miss the next opportunity to take what they want.

Nowhere in the world does that seem to be a clearer case than our Nigeria.  If wealth is the reward for industry and creativity and investment and management, there are no real wealthy people in Nigeria.

What we have is a class of people whose principal skill has been to sell their own country by selling her out.  They have sold her to the devil and placed the few pieces of silver in their pockets.

That is not wealth, but it has also made Nigeria the poorest nation on earth.  If Nigeria is assessed according to her size and population and natural resources and educated people, we ought to be one of the world’s richest and one of the best places on earth to live.  Instead, we are often reviled and laughed at because while a few of us own those pieces of silver, it is in exchange for hell.

Nigeria is a triumph of the greediest.  We have no statesmen and no industrialists.  Our most prominent citizens—take a look at our 2010 National Honours List—are looters, pedophiles, forgers, political manipulators and debtors.  Our nation’s former rulers do not scratch an itch in public because they know their corruption and their loot and their lies and their high crimes will pollute the headlines for months.

Think about it: how many of Nigeria’s former rulers and their hangers-on are actively engaged in the task of making Nigeria work, let alone great?  How many support talented Nigerians, or charitable endeavors or education in the country?  On the contrary, they are begging organizations and schools abroad for opportunities to endow expensive academic chairs or raise foreign children.

How many of Nigeria’s former rulers give interviews to the local press or defend initiatives they championed in office?  On the contrary, they have agents begging foreign correspondents to speak to them.

How many of Nigeria’s former top government officials are involved in work designed to nurture local scientific or technical endeavor?

How many of Nigeria’s former government officials have investments you can see or assess?  And yet they are our “wealthy” and powerful, desperately trying to make people believe they are the nation’s powerbrokers.

It is no surprise that while they continue to appropriate our commonwealth, the nation grows poorer and more anachronistic.  Nobody takes Nigeria seriously any more: we are a nation that seeks the dizzying heights of veto power at the United Nations Security Council, without the responsibility of fighting poverty or challenging disease.

We want to be in the G20 and speak arrogantly of Vision 20-2020, but we do not want to find out why Benin Republic, next door, does not respect us anymore.

And now, the new humiliation: suddenly, our “war against corruption” is being fought for us by foreign countries.  They send us detailed information about our citizens that have looted us blind and where the money is.  We ignore them.

They prosecute our thieving former officials abroad and have begun to bar them from visiting their lands.  They are naming people from previous governments and are set to name people from the present.

We ignore them.

When Nigerians vote, their votes do not count, because elections are predetermined.

When a Nigerian official says he wants to fight corruption, we know he wants his wife and his ministers and his friends to know they are safe.

When the United Nations and the African Union and our development partners set growth targets, Nigeria tells them the People’s Democratic Party is Africa’s largest.

When a Nigerian ruler proposes a budget, everybody knows the funds are going to anything but the projects it contains.

It is insulting for a Nigerian ruler to go to a local hospital.  Their wives would rather die naked at the reception of a foreign hospital, any foreign hospital.

As a young man, I always thought these would change.  Now I have proof they will because they have all deteriorated indescribably.

Things will change because Nigeria’s political elite is greedier and hungrier more irresponsible than it has ever been.

Things will change because we have lost every sense of community.  Our preoccupation of eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage are not just symbolic, they are prophetic.

How will the change come?  I am in little doubt now that this will end violently.  Nigerian political irresponsibility was nurtured on the fertilizer of ignorance: 20 governors and their girlfriends could join an indicted felon in South Africa or Brazil or the United Kingdom for a weekend frolic and nobody would ever know.  The people did not know; they could not know.

Only 10 or 20 years ago, every governor knew that State Broadcasting was never going to tell the people he was a thief.  Today, there are credible people and institutions that will tell, and prove it.

Only 10 or 20 years ago, every Nigerian ruler knew nobody would call his wife a thief in private, let alone in public.  Today, there are credible people and institutions that will tell, and prove it.

And yet the brazen looting and lying continues.  The partying continues.  All you have to do is be close enough to those who are powerful enough, and you can get into the party.

I think that bloodshed is now guaranteed in Nigeria; the kind of bloodshed nobody has seen since the middle of the last century.

Think about it: two weeks ago in New York, Nigeria was leading a Security Council assault on the Iran nuclear weapons programme; the same Nigeria, in Abuja, Nigeria was hosting the Iranian leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad!  Think about it: last week, Nigeria was leading a United Nations Security Council debate on preventive diplomacy.

These are the kinds of contradictions that make you throw up, and provide our critics with easy fodder. Nigeria should be helping the United Nations avoid the most debilitating and expensive peacekeeping challenge the world has ever known by engaging in preventive development.  Instead, we have nurtured a hypocritical time-bomb.  It will arrive because there is no further to sink and nowhere else to go.

People say a rebellion—nay, a revolution—is expensive because you never know how far it will go or how it will end.  On the contrary, I think that is what Nigeria deserves.  Nigeria, through the scorched-earth greed of its ruling elite, is heading for the kind of chaos that will end in rivers of blood.  It is guaranteed to eliminate the guilty without necessarily sparing the innocent.

Maybe that was what the poet saw when she wrote, “Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a bloody peace by written in the sky.”

That would be fertilization, not murder.

Culled from