A sense of Sisyphus in the land
These days, it is often with an expression of ‘nothing can be done’ that we encounter co-patriots each time we interrogate the kind of leadership that has been foisted on Nigeria through a democratic coup. Democratic coup? Yes. Because ostensibly, the ballot box, that arcane symbol of democracy, produced the men and women who occupy the seats of government across the land. Yet, most critical minds would say that there is a frightening dissonance between the citizens of the country and those who were purportedly elected by the hapless citizens.
If we had any doubts that we were back to the PDP shenanigans and how they stayed in power for sixteen years, the last governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states thoroughly washed away the doubts. The nightmare of a violent capture of power, synonymous with the years of military misadventure in government stares us in the face. State institutions have been captured by uncanny minds whose determination and goals are to impose a peculiar brand of governance on the docile citizenry. How, we may ask, did we arrive at this impasse?
We have returned to the past when fear became the dominant watchword in our relationship with those who held the reins of power, supposedly in trust, for the people. A ‘democratic coup’ is a sort of an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Yet it captures the fundamental contradiction which we deal with every day as we read the news or feel the pulse of the country through verbal exchanges. Millions of voters apparently voted for the elected officials, yet the officials feel no obligations whatsoever to the electorate. Impunity, sits squarely in the corridors of power, especially at the federal level.
There is a hollow and forlorn belief that change is possible but not with the preachers of that doctrine, not by those unholy apostles who knocked on our doors for votes in the twilight of the Jonathan administration. The suffering nation did not need the lamentation of Jeremiah to be convinced that the sixteen- year democratic tyranny had to come to an end; to be replaced with a tight-fisted general who swore that he had become a latter-day convert to the ideals and practice of democracy and would wipe off corruption from the corridors of governance in no time. The people believed. They buried the hatchet in the head of a common enemy! Poor Jonathan. Poor Patience!
Indeed, nobody who fervently wished for and conscientiously worked to end the PDP rule under President Goodluck Jonathan ever imagined that five years after the exit of that government, we would somewhat miss the demons of PDP. For, in the strictest sense, we could ‘negotiate’ with the Jonathan administration; we could pour invectives and damn the consequences because invariably there were no consequences for denouncing that which we did not like or approve. The dominant narrative in the public space, aided by the power of the Lagos media, pictured an administration mired in filth and dirt of monumental proportions. The administration was portrayed as a weak one; so weak that it could not defend the territorial integrity of the country. It was so weak that a beautiful Jezebel had the life and reasoning of the President locked in a ring and tossed into the pockets. Stories of the alcohol-loving president were routinely leaked to the public.
Now the question on lips is: how did we get sucked in by a government that ordinarily we would not have given a second thought to? What was the magic that made diehards believe that the men who now occupy the rungs of power would be the messiahs that we had long waited for? Now, we seem to be content that ‘it could have been worse’ and resort to the exhortations which the Bible or Quran give in times of extreme hardship. Certain ‘givens’ have been discarded in a cavalier manner and it all seems to be routine. Civil liberty organisations which shouted their voices hoarse in the days of the Jonathan administration have all become docile, inactive and complicit in the face of assaults on persons and institutions that gave the country a relative sense of unity.
When politicians begin to attack and compromise institutions then the country is well on the way to being handed over to the dogs. The judiciary, the press, and civil society. These are currently under attack. The Hate Speech Bill is a manifestation of the spirit of intolerance to contrary opinions. The bloodthirsty hounds in power are baying for blood, the blood of men and women who have the courage to be different. It is one of the signposts of dictatorship. Sadly, and perhaps tragically, the sponsor is a legislator who was elected by the people to speak for them in parliament.
All the leakages we witness are evidence of collapsing frameworks and structures. To be sure, some are protected, even insulated from the caving roof. But this will only be for a while. If anybody thinks the insurgency in the north east would simply go away, then they are dreamers. Boko Haram and all the other extreme actions taking place there are the symptoms of decades of neglect. The chicken has come home to roost. Even the most ‘powerful men’ cannot travel home to stay with family. Yet, they live like the ostrich in the false allure that is Abuja or Lagos.
The ballot box is a fundamental symbol of democracy. It is not a democracy. It is the route to democracy. It is sacred when respected. But it can also be abused, made a travesty when polluted by the filthy hands in power. If there is a lesson we have all learned, it is that the incumbent government is not faithful to the niceties of the ballot box. There is a ravishing desire to subvert and pretend that the ballot box has given them supremacy over other contestants. But compatriots know that the ballot box, the voters’ card has been traumatised metaphorically that it no longer makes a pretense of it. The APC has over taken the PDP in the raucous journey into exotic manipulations of outcomes. The art has been extended to the judiciary. If they think that the entire country has been fooled then they are the bigger fools on the train of foolishness. A day of reckoning will come. I am sure PDP did not envisage the near-evaporation that took place in 2015. In the words of our elders, PDP took enough for the owner to notice. The owner did notice. And acted. And the rest is history if I may borrow that cliché.
Sisyphus is condemned to push a boulder up a hill, condemned to that futile act for the rest of his life, for eternity. In this, he is like the girl in African folktale whose mother gave her the task of cooking sand and that she must not go and play until the sand is cooked. When will our sand be cooked? When will the boulder being pushed to the peak by Sisyphus get to and stay at the top of the hill? Time will tell!
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