By Chimdi Maduagwu
I have come across many references to the past. Some state that the past is very important because it is a guide to the future; some believe that the past must address its present (apologies to Soyinka in his Nobel Lecture) and some, like I want to be part of now, believe that the past is gone and should be allowed to rest in peace; however only to be remembered for its good contributions. I have decided to join this group of philosophers because of what is happening in the country now and what will happen in the near future.
I am really worried about the current developments where things are going wrong and out of place and many of the critical minds feign ignorance of them all. It is not that I do not know the importance of a clean and relevant reference to the past, it is only that I am somehow afraid of a complete reliance on the past for actions of the present. Let me not go too far in search of justification for my position as I make this allusion. This is a digital age and just the immediate past—a very short while ago—was analogue.
It will indeed be analogous to use the analogue instrument to broach digital problems; this is a democratic dispensation and just the immediate past—a very short while ago—was the era of military dictatorship. It is also an aberration to apply dictatorship standards in the democratic age. We must therefore be careful with the past.
Standards change every day and as we talk, changes are taking place. We are in an age that is characterized by an extremely fast mode of change. This is why humanists call it the post modern age. It is an age where it becomes not too easy to determine the status of development because one wonders what becomes the real definition or meaning of “modern.” For instance, we would ask in Modernist Studies, what do we do with a Modern that is no longer modern?
The prefix, “post” helps solve a barrage of problems associated with such uncertainties. For instance, we begin a project or programme and just before we are done with it, that has already become post programme or post project. I say all these because it appears as if our country is not in a hurry to join the entire humanity in her pursuit of modernity and race against time; rather, we relish in a constant romance with the past. I have a few experiences that come to mind.
Fighting corruption is one business that is thriving in this country today and the index of corruption is a reference to the past. The evaluation of services, goods and even personnel as to their degrees or levels of corruption is directly related to what they have done in the past. This insistence on combating corruption as a full time endeavour is a delicate and almost permanent fixture of attention on the past.
I do not have anything against fighting corruption but when the enemy is so delicate, abstract and subtle that it easily appropriates the instruments of the battle against it, there is every need to be careful. I am worried about this because the first attack of corruption on those who fight it now, in this democratic dispensation, is to present to them a corrupt version of democracy. This means that the virus called corruption has infested our democracy. It surprises me that people do not see it all.
Just as the Boko Haram menace resurges most times it is combated, so is corruption. Just as it is difficult to pin down the mysterious source of the insurgence, so it is to nib corruption in the bud. The reasons are myriad but one simple significant reason is that roots of these evils are deeply planted in the systems which “pretend” to fight them. This is why I say that our democracy has been attached by the virus called corruption. For this reason, operators of the system are unable to face the present. They have taken a safe escape into the past.
Many of us still remain skeptical about the composition of the Federal Executive Council. If I accept to be one of those who have decided to watch—with tongue in the check—I do so because I am concerned about the purity of democracy. Democracy is a system, but it is actualized by people who reflect its colour. Like the Greek musician once said “it’s hard to sing a love song when you’re not in love…,”
I also believe that it is hard to operate the democratic system when you are not a democrat. Many politicians are not democrats. They simply flow into the system that affords them the opportunity to practice their vocation and for us in Nigeria, it is the democratic system. We can recall that the same people equally operated or facilitated the older military dictatorship which the country grumbled under for a long time. We hear that they repented and converted into democrats and we are watching.
Genuine repentance presupposes forsaking the past. I am a Christian and the governing statement for true repentance is “… old things have passed away … all things have become new.” I believe this is both sensible and logical and radiates a universal appeal. It ought to be adopted by all who wish to lead a decent life. If by any means, we seek to be accepted as “converted,” whether from a military dictator to a democratic leader, or from sinner to a saint, there is a need to realize that the basic issue is forsaking the past so as to gain acceptance.
One can repent or convert but if one does not forsake the past and thus is not accepted, it all amounts to nothing. Acceptance is premised on forgiveness. If and whenever forgiveness takes place, we let go! It is for this reason that I make a passionate appeal to our political elite: this is the time to let go.