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Celebrating or commemorating

By Morenike  Taire
WHILE he shaved in the morning, the daughter of US president  Barack Obama knocked on his door asking if Gulf of Mexico oil spills had ‘been plugged’. The speech-making genius that was her father jumped on that little, innocent and domestic event to drive home his point about how important the matter was.

There were those who were not impressed, and his ratings in the polls have continued to drop on this account. Still, the fact that he did try spoke volumes about the mindset of his compatriots. These here, it says, are people who actually care about what a little girl says, at least under normal circumstances.

A people must have a heart, and a united one, if they are to be referred to as compatriots. In our country, it is a rare thing to have a head of state that thrusts his family forward in an unafraid and simple manner.

It is rare for us to even know how many wives/children our president has, let alone their individual names. We do not hear about their domestic affairs and do not care to hear, unless in scandal situations. We heard all about the quite infamous carryings on of the Abacha children, who opened the Nigerian treasury as often and as casually as though it were the refrigerator in their massive kitchen, and they were the children of the house reaching for an apple or tangerine or milk.

We heard, also of the Babangida children who, though being relatively well behaved, could not quite make up for the shortcomings of their parents.

But these were soldiers who lived under the illusion that their children were protected from the aftermath of the chaos they created. We were fed every scandalous detail of the dirty break-up between Gbenga Obasanjo and ex- wife, Moji, and of Iyabo’s political escapades.

And though their father was the only Nigerian head of state in Nigeria’s history who was as well known by his daughter’s name as by his, the Nigerian public can hardly claim to be intimate with his immediate family.

In short, we are interested only in the politics. We know where everyone comes from, to their village. We are hooked on the politics of  ethnicity, and unrepentant about it, and so a man’s village is of far greater significance to us than the manner in which a man conducts his family life. We rarely ever know the exact ages of our heads of state, let alone that of their wives and children. It is hardly of any significance to us.

It is the spirit in which lawmakers were asking last week, whether there is any need to commemorate Democracy Day on May 29 this year.

Of course the politics of the day is ongoing. In all  likelihood, it will not ever end. The Abiola-ists insist June 12, not the 29th of May, should have been named Democracy Day.

Were it Obasanjo’s  egocentric nature that is under attack here, it would have been exasperating enough, but to claim that the day the first  civilian Nigerian president in almost two decades was sworn in- warts and all- is of no significance is to reduce everything to nothing.

And there is a sense in which our sense of togetherness itself is what suffers. It is in any case the fact that we have democracy at all and have been able to sustain it that we are commemorating and celebrating.

May 29, or whichever other day of the 365 in the year that we choose to celebrate democracy on should actually be a day of reflection. It should be a day not commemorated by only politicians and civil society but every Nigeria man and woman and child.

It should be a day of both sober and joyous reflections. It should be a time of rubbing minds and heads. It should be a  time of congratulating ourselves for whatever minimum progress we have been able to make. It is a time for gloating over the fact that the military cannot, for the first time in our national lives, even think of walking in and taking over.

These days, our soldiers have all become politicians and why not?

They did not do that much warmongering to justify all their big titles and fat paychecks.
Most importantly, we should celebrate on this day the simple things that bind us together, like family and food and culture and nationality.

Even language.

And let no one ever say again that we should not celebrate.


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