June 12, 2009

Democracy @ 10: Nigerians remember MKO

By Gab Ejuwa

LEADERS  are revered throughout the world. One obvious reason is that as senior citizens, they are believed to be richly endowed with wisdom; people who possess  the exceptional privilege of being able to speak words of truth  without fear or favour; people who are impartial and incorruptible; people whose conducts are above board. But in Nigeria we have rulers who have not proved themself in the light of  the above.

Years back, Nigerians woke up on the morning of January 15, 1966 to discover that the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa  and his Minister of Finance, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, had been kidnapped and assassinated  in the name of coup detat, and the old government was no more. Arising from this, confusion reigned for a while until a message across the national broadcasting network told the story of a dissident section of the army in revolt in the early  hours of that morning.

But it was only later confirmed in the  news that the section of the Nigerian Army loyal to the Federal Government had crushed the revolt. Eventually,  a Federal Military Government came into power.  Since then, the military has been with us and have refused to let go.

For many Nigerians  the end of military rule on May 29, 1999 does not necessarily mean a return to democracy. With  former military head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo, who was elected president in February, taking over from General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Nigeria has been under the rule of soldiers, who seized power by force of arm, for 29 out of 49 years since independence from Britain in1960.

The main anxiety facing the Obasanjo government then was to ensure that the military  that has become addicted  to power, do not find excuses to seize power again. Nearly four decades of nationhood, during which most of the country’s rulers, in and out of uniform, were Northern Muslims, misrule, mainly blamed on the military have seen a potentially rich country laid prostrate by poverty, insecurity, social and infrastructural decay, and  corruption as one of the major monsters strangulating Nigeria.

The rulers masquerading as democrats and patriots have turned themselves into tin gods. They demand that their words must be law. This is inimical to democracy and human freedom with the atmosphere pregnant with evil plots. Enemies of democracy! The situation is precarious. It is frightening. Only a timely reaction from courageous Nigerians  can remedy the situation.

This is a land in which even the selfless sacrifice of a true hero’s life means  nothing to the overwhelming majority of the ruling class. It is a land which takes delight  in eating the flesh of its heroes and which refuses  to allow anyone of true worth to get to the top.

If this were not so, how could we, as a nation, allow our politicians to celebrate May 29 with so much gusto and yet, forget all about June 12? What sort of decadent society is this where nothing works? What sort of society is this that gives no chance to development of its  people? What sort of society is this where our leaders revel in lip service?

Our political actors have turned  what is called democracy to bureaucracy. There is need for caution as we must do more to create a society of justice, peace and love. What are the ideals of those who claim to be our leaders? One of the best ways to touch a child’s life is to touch the child itself. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, a great leader and achiever whose love for humanity  made him to lead even in the face of odds.

“The Great Zik of Africa” identifies five concepts for Africa’s movement towards freedom: Spiritual balance,  social regeneration, economic determination, mental emancipation, and political resurgence. The present rulers must draw ideas from our great leaders’ wealth of experience and apply them and the best within them will emerge. A once rich and proud nation that boasted of the highest per capita income in Africa only a few years ago, and still boasts of rich human and natural resources  has been devastated and plundered by its so-called rulers.

Our land is guilty of blood-shed resulting from our political manipulations. Several years of inept and corrupt rule; decades of military dictatorship  have set the nation in an irreversible downward slide. Inept leadership, corruption in high and low places climaxed in the years of military dictatorship headed by then military president, General Ibrahim Babangida and later by Gen. Sani Abacha who died in office.

This trend still continues under the present  rulers of Nigeria as we have always had presidents, governors, ministers, legislators and local government chairmen, etc, who never prepared for the position. They just woke up one  morning to discover that they had been hand-picked to rule Nigeria. Any wonder that Nigeria is perpetually stuck in the mud?

They only start thinking of what to promise or do when they are sworn in. That is Nigeria in action! I weep for Nigeria democracy at 10: no light, no road, no water and food. With plenty of mineral resources, water and fertile soil, it is so sad that our leaders are not taking advantage of the above to serve the Nigerian masses.

The bitter truth is that this country has been turned  into a land of selfish and carnal leaders. We do not care about the plight of our  masses, as long as we and our families are okay. What is the state of Nigeria democracy at 10?  The oil rich Niger Delta region,  with about 90 per cent of Nigeria’s export earnings and 80 per cent of its total revenue coming from the barrels of oil and gas is grossly neglected.

Instead of being a blessing to the people of the region it is  now a curse. It  pollutes their waters and the air, damages their farmlands. Nigeria is a nation, in which the idealists and all true men of vision and destiny are ignored, shunned and pushed aside. Nigeria is a nation in which the truly God-fearing and righteous man will always be subjected to disdain. How could we, as a nation,  forget the sacrifice of MKO Abiola and Kudirat so soon?

For Nigeria to have a spiritual and physical balance our present rulers must recognise the sacrifice of MKO Abiola and other heroes. Both Abiola and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua perished in the gulag of  the dictator, Sani Abacha and the likes  of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogonis, Pa Alfred Rewane and other human rights  and pro-democracy activists were rounded up and detained at will. Many were tortured, some killed. We  remember Dele Giwa.

These people  symbolise democracy, liberty, freedom, emancipation and above all, selfless sacrifice.

Mr.  Ejuwa, a journalist, writes from Lagos.