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Nigerian election year tsunamis: Armed robbery -2

By Dele Sobowale

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
George Santayana, 1863-1952.

“My Fellow Countrymen”, behave as if history does not count for anything. It is no longer taught in the schools. And OBJ in one of his most destructive statements once said the teaching of social “sciences” should be discouraged in schools! That is ‘leadership’ for you!! I started reading Medicine, ended up graduating in Economics and now I wish I read History. For me, History and Philosophy are the most interesting of all subjects. What has that got to do with tsunamis and armed robbery? Plenty.

In June 2007, I wrote a three part series titled STALWART, CRIMINAL and MILITANT as you will recall -if you have been with this page for that long. The point  was , before every election, politicians, mostly unpatriotic people, gather all sorts of miscreants (NO AREA BOYS PLEASE, WE ARE BUSY AT UNIJANKARA STUDYING) and invest them with the ‘honourable’ title of ‘Party Stalwarts’.

Those are the guys and girls engaged and armed to break heads, snatch ballot boxes, stuff the boxes, thumb-print thousands of ballot papers, commit arson and murder – all with the assurance that, even if arrested by the police, no prosecution will follow because their employers will fix it. We experienced the rise of these social parasites in 1999, 2003, 2007 and predictably, to me at least, they were back in business in 2011. Do we ever learn?

The question, ‘do we ever learn?’, is vital because, as night follows day, the metamorphosis of stalwart to criminal and, perhaps, militants, is about to start – beginning with those who lost elections. Unless the losers are headed for the Election Tribunals, those ‘stalwarts’ have been demobilized by their paymasters and paymistresses (some female politicians are now as wicked as their male counterparts; believe me.

The stalwarts are now technically unemployed according to the Ministry of Labour which is staffed by people our Latin teacher at Igbobi College will call yamheads. In reality, they have now become fully self-employed, better armed and more vicious. Now, they have better state-of-the-art guns and ammunitions; and some have learnt to make bombs – which were not widely in use in 2007. And they are ready to go as usual.

Now before anyone starts to blame the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Ringim and the Security forces, let me absolve them of most of the blame. A society is as secure as the percentage of its citizens who are law-abiding. When a group of people, in this case our politicians, exploiting the crushing poverty and unemployment in the country, increase the percentage of brigands, they make policing more difficult – if not impossible.

Again, since we are all stakeholders in this matter, the best advice to everyone is to improve on your personal security, at home or outside, until the police rid the society of many of these elements. Unfortunately, the police are engaged in a task which reminds one of the fate of Sisyphus as related by Albert Camus, 1903-1960, Algerian born philosopher. The ‘gods’ have condemned Sisyphus to rolling a piece of rock up a hill. And just as he gets it up there it rolls down the other side and Sisyphus had to start over again. Pity the NPF and IGP; they can’t win as long as we have criminal politicians….


I always respect your views on national issues because you are dispassionate. Your analysis on ‘voting for Jonathan and not PDP’ brought feeling of regret. But what do you say on GEJ’s humility? Can’t something good come out of bad (PDP) situation?

Let me thank you for this text which, among the over two hundred received, was not abusive, repetitive (i.e you hate Jonathan so much) and condemnatory of the entire north while forgetting all the millions of votes Jonathan got from the north. Secondly, there is the understanding that in a democracy everybody is entitled to his candidate  – until after the elections. Then the President becomes everybody’s leader; and should conduct himself that way. In fact, the great ones owe it more to their critics to prove their supporters right.

Otherwise the majority would have been responsible for the calamity that follows -example is eight years of Obasanjo which was a waste. Thirdly, yours was the only text message which captured the ethical, personal, political dilemma which all thinking voters faced this time around. It is easy to choose between ‘good’ and ‘bad’; but excruciatingly difficult to select between ‘perhaps right’ and ‘possibly wrong’.

It is amazing that nobody remembered that I was on record for stating that former military leaders should be rejected. But, then, I am also on record for saying that a party which has ruled so woefully for 12 years does not deserve another chance. Buhari and Jonathan represented my dilemmas all rolled into one. One was a former military Head of State; the other represents the party which had squandered the greatest revenue we ever collected in twelve years – even dwarfing the fabled Gulf War windfall of the Babangida years.

Anyone who did not have misgivings voting for one or the other is not on the same page with me. Would I have celebrated if Buhari had won? Probably not. If anything, I would have spent the next four years praying that God will make my choice turn out right. Am I sad that Jonathan won? To be candid I never lost a minute’s sleep over it. In a democracy you make your choice and accept the outcome in a free and fair election. I still pray that the majority is right this time around.

After all, this is the only country I have and will ever have. Unlike Lamide, I had the choice of remaining in the US after obtaining my green card. I returned home and threw the card into the lagoon at Marina opposite Christ Church Cathedral. I voluntarily decided to live and die here – even under the worst conditions. So the block heads gloating that ‘I’ lost the election should go and rest. A new page in our history is about to start and I will write more of it than most of them. And let me again repeat that, to me, column writing is not a popularity contest. I am not asking for votes; so I will follow the truth where it leads me -irrespective of whether it is popular, or acceptable to the reader, or not. Depend on it.

You asked two questions. Let me answer them briefly. First, humility is not the first attribute of great leaders. Consider a few if you like -Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Churchill, Chaka the Zulu, Mao Tse Tsung, Fidel Castro, Lee Kwan Yew. There is at least one for every continent. None would win a prize for humility.

Read some history, granted I am not a historian. But try reading Edward Gibbon’s, 1734-1794, DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, over 1200 pages long, and dripping with names of leaders, or Plutarch’s, c46-c120 A.D, AGE OF ALEXANDER.

In Gibbon’s book and Plutarch’s chronicle of the Hellenic Age you will discover that none of the glittering arrays of leaders would be described as humble by anyone. So, the sooner Jonathan discarded “humility” and takes on other attributes of leadership the better. The first is to keep his words because great men keep their words. The second is courage…


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