Introduction : In 2008, Mr. Klaus P. Wachsmuth, the German Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nestle Nigeria Plc told me and Ikechukwu Eze, two BusinessDay Senior Correspondents then, in an exclusive interview that “nobody has the right to treat his country the way Nigerians treat their country.” Mr. Wachsmuth later sought to keep that statement out of what was going to be published, probably because he felt he shouldn’t have interfered in the internal affairs of his host country. But Mr. Wachsmuth was absolutely right.
Today, Prof. Pat Utomi, one of Nigeria’s foremost public intellectuals for four decades, is telling us things more grievous than what the former Nestle M.D told us in 2008, and poignantly too: They raped their mother, Nigeria, until she was in coma, and they still continued to rape her unconscious body.
Who are these rapers of their mother? We may not be one of them but we could be accomplices to the crime if we keep quiet over the “gory” event as Utomi defines it in this fearless book – a book that has the capacity to shake us out of our slumber and spring us into action to reclaim our country from the present pack of murderous fraudsters who have seized it.
In many ways, Pat Utomi’s “Why Not” is another Soyinka’s “The Man Died”. We must not only read and enjoy this great literary achievement in its simple, and yet elevated language, but we must also let its important message galvanize us into political actions.
On page 79, the author quotes Plato, the philosopher, thus: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferior”. And also Socrates: “ The wise who refuse to rule should prepare to suffer the rule of idiots”. But for George Orwell, it is “a people who elect corrupt politicians, impostors, thieves, and traitors are not victims…but accomplices”.
This dogged, intellectual warrior, Pat Utomi, has played his part. The rest is now left to us – to choose to act, or continue in our deep slumber until we are all murdered in the sleep. The choices are ours. Meanwhile, enjoy this masterpiece from the stable of one of the most brilliant brains in the history of Nigeria:
Why Not: Citizenship, state capture, creeping fascism, and criminal hijack of power politics in Nigeria – this is the response to the question, “Why bother”, which is posed by those who believe that criminal capture of political parties in Nigeria is complete and those outside the league of cult members, 419ers and con men have no chance of breaking in. Hands should, therefore, be folded, and observer binoculars rented. The “Sidon look” of the Bola Ige metaphor should be accepted until current actors push Nigeria into a ‘full failed-state’ status. The desperation of that moment would then throw up salvation champions, illustrating how dry bones can be made to rise and walk.
Using my experience in APC this book sketches, autobiographically, a path that could lead Nigeria to Robert Kaplan’s ‘Coming Anarchy’ and an alternative possibility. It begins with mapping what is emerging as a path to a new fascism in Nigeria as we see power corrupting and people hungry for absolute power, which corrupts absolutely, turning to unbridled impunity.
The desire for total domination of others which invites the country into a 21st century slavery realm is also illustrated in this narrative of experience. This book is part of a three-volume project. While this volume tells the story, as it is the companion volume, In The Devil’s Den – How politics underdeveloped countries brings the experience into the context of theories in development economics and political science to predict, without hyperbole, the consequences of the undemocratic nature of Nigeria’s democracy.
The three volumes are united by one chapter, which is the same in the other books. The complicit middle, as one of the chapters is titled, explores how an educated middle class through either contempt for politics or prideful disrespect for politicians, or through fear, and a sense of helplessness considers the public sphere the arena of amusing, but disgusting spectator sports. By their actions and inaction, they have become complicit in Nigeria’s backward march.
Nigeria has been as hard to travel as the roads of oil rich Delta State. As civil rule arrived in 1999, it had as company, Karl Maier’s book, This House Has Fallen: Midnight in Nigeria. Many such books by well-informed foreigners like Stephen Ellis’ This Present Darkness and Robert Kaplan’s The Coming Anarchy, all point to a gift no one would want to give their child, yet political elite behavious persists on the path of wrong. This book explores how a sense of shame met its death in Nigeria as if immobilized by a Boko Haram IED.
A Haunting Metaphor
Shortly after I decided to write this book to show how politics under-develops Nigeria and eclipses the dreams of its founding fathers, a bizarre story was reported in several Nigerian newspapers. The story was about the arrest of a young man who had apparently raped his mother, killed her, and proceeded to sodomise her lifeless body even as the corpse began to manifest rigor mortis. Gory as the report may seem, I saw it as a metaphor sent from heaven. In many ways it is the story of Nigeria, a country of enormous potential laid waste by those given the most by the country, its most powerful people who, unfortunately never managed to become citizens in the classical sense of the word.
A thesis I have held up for a while is that Nigerians love the business of finger-pointing. Who is to blame? As soon as those words are uttered, fingers spring form, often directed at the Public office holders and politicians. I was sure many more were deserving of blame, but I was looking for evidence. In 2018 I decided to contest for the gubernatorial candidate of the APC, the political party in charge of the government at the centre in Nigeria’s federal arrangement. It was for the seat of Delta State governor. And suddenly there was a hood of evidence.
Party apparatchik, senior statesmen, high office holders betraying sacred trust and the oath of their office by the minute, the educated middle class who found it all an amusing game and were thus complicit in their own enslavement, weak public institutions and even the media and academia. The trouble with Nigeria was clearly gang rape of a loving mother by her own children. While some were central to the sordid act, others were cheering and jeering even as a compassionate mother who sacrificed it all for her children was raped into a coma. Others looked on and were thus guilty, by association, and failure to exercise citizenship obligations. Such abominations often bring down a curse on heritage.
Can this haunting metaphor help us narrow down the reasons why Nigeria’s democracy is almost completely out of credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of both its citizens and the world? How does the evidence from my experience show what is wrong, how it went wrong and what may be done to save Nigeria? Can Nehemiahs arise and rebuild the falling walls of Nigeria? Can dry bones arise and walk from the ruins of Nigeria and the Nehemiahs among them set stock for rebuilding what the rapists damaged as a gasping dear mother struggled for breath?
The boy who raped and killed his mother was presumed by many, including myself, to be suffering from a mental disease from the moment of sighting the headline. But the report went on to indicate that the young man took to so dastardly a deed because he was assured that wealth beyond comprehension would be his if he did it. This motive is strikingly similar to what has driven most in the political class to run Nigeria to the brink of anarchy, shame her before the nations as the misery and poverty capital of the world and cripple her as central residence of people most desperate to escape their conditions by illegal migration through the desert and Mediterranean or for the well-heeled professional; with a one-way flight ticket to Canada.
Whether it be this metaphor of a gang rape of a mother by her own children that is the dominant metaphor of the Nigerian condition or the competing one in which Nigeria is characterised as an asylum for the mentally challenged, such asylum though seems to be one in which die inmates take over the enclave and hold the psychiatrists hostage and subject the original caregivers to treatment for a perverse mental condition!
This Orwellian state (remember George Orwell’s Animal Farm) – a psychiatric dimension is steadily creeping into the Nigerian narrative. Whatever the shrink may think of us in Nigeria, in 2018 our challenges had a tinge of déjà vu. The primary elections of the political parties in 2018 were essentially the moral equivalence of June 12. In 1993, the country voted and a group of soldiers conspiring in Aso Rock decided to annul it. In 2018, the citizens in political parties went out to vote but groups of civilians prevented them from doing so and announced whatever pleased them as the outcome.
On a moral scale, the 2018 experience was more morally degenerated because the architects of the annulments of 2018 were in civilian clothes and pretended to be running a democracy. The 1993 conspirators were soldiers who had grabbed power and had no obligation to accountability beyond the iron law of legitimacy which forces any who governs to require some justification of those being governed. Even less flattering is the fact that many who perpetrated the travesty of 2018 fancy themselves as heroes of democracy who fought the conspirators of 1993.