The convergence of truth
There is a great deal of bewilderment in the world whether in the sphere of politics or in the ire brandishment by Nature with the fear of morrow as its inevitable accompaniment. It cannot be an exaggeration to say millions are perplexed and tortured by increasing harrowing experiences, by what they see, observe, hear, read or perceive hourly, daily, weekly or yearly. Whether in the economic, political or social plane, or in the outworking of Nature, it is a catalogue of nightmarish experiences. Consider the value of the Naira, exchanging for N460 against the Dollar. The Bureau of Statistics report for August says inflation is on the rise, but the Federal Authorities say prices are falling. I hope economists are on standby to lecture us on the relationship between rising inflation and falling prices. Some of our states will pass for killing fields, with Southern Kaduna carrying the blood-stained trophy.
When I look at the heart-rending pictures of killings, destruction, desolation, homelessness and blurred future of the people of Southern Kaduna, and parts of Katsina and Zamfara States, not to mention Borno State, they remind me of a report in Time Magazine which painted a graphic picture of inconceivably heart-shattering situation in Somalia which can’t but frighten any concerned Nigerian to ask: Are we not inexonarably inching towards the grim-suffused Somalia situation? It is this that is undoubtedly what must have brought a convergence in perception of two of Nigeria’s leading lights—Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the iconic Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka whose relationship has, at best, been combustible, especially after Stella Obasanjo departed earthly life with her mediation gifts and intuitive faculty to sense when a brawl between the two was brewing.
The Time Magazine report read in part as follows: “Dawn. As the red edges over the horizon, a crowd of frail bodies gathers in the chill morning air outside the UNICEF feeding centre in Bardera, a small town in southern Somalia. Each person clutches an aluminum pot or gourd to be filled, they hope, with a meal of brown gruel before the day is over. For four weeks now, they have been arriving at the rate of 150 to 200 a day from villages as far as 200 kms away, camping overnight in abandoned huts and making their way to the centre in the predawn hours through the wide, dusty streets. Most of those waiting are women and children; their men were killed in the endless fighting that has cursed the region, or they simply absconded.”
By 2004, the central government of Somalia collapsed and from then the country carried the tag of a failed state. It started recovering and by 2012, with the election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud the tag started to wear off such that by this year, 2020, it is no longer referred to as a failed state, but a fragile nation.
The political tragedy which is a measure of the inner maturity of leaders manifests in different forms. Is there nothing that calls for reflection, and provide food for thought in a science magazine for the first time in its 175-year history in the United States taking a position on the November presidential election? The magazine says in its editorial published two days ago that it is breaking with its tradition because “The 2020 election is literally a matter of life and death.” The monthly, Scientific American which sells 3.5 million copies at every outing says it is endorsing Mr. Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger of President Trump and urges Americans to vote for Mr. Biden. “We urge you to vote for health, science and Joe Biden for President.
The editors write that they feel compelled to break with tradition because it has been documentarily proven that Mr. Trump has no regard for science. This is evinced in his rejection of climate change and the existence of coronavirus, the magazine says. His disbelief in the emergence of coronavirus “has cost tens of thousands of American lives.” The magazine goes on: “The pandemic would strain any nation and system, but Trump rejection of evidence and public health measures have been catastrophic in the U.S. He was warned many times in January and February about the onrushing disease, yet he did not develop a national strategy to provide protective equipment, coronavirus testing or clear health guidelines.
“Trump repeatedly lied to the public about the deadly threat of the disease, saying it was not a serious concern and this is like a flu’ when he knew it was lethal and highly transmissible. His lies encouraged people to engage in risky behaviour, spreading the virus further and have driven wedges between Americans who took the threat seriously and those who believe Trumps falsehood.” The magazine says Mr. Trump “hobbled U.S. preparations for climate change, falsely claiming that it does not exist and pulling out of international agreements to mitigate it.”
The editors, endorsing his challenger, however, argue that Mr. Joe Biden “comes prepared with plans to control COVID-19, improve health care, reduce carbon emissions, and restore the role of legitimate science in policy making. He solicits expertise and has turned that knowledge into solid policy proposals.”
As the political battle is raging, Nature is about to bare its fangs. Alabama Governor, Kay Ivey is reported to have said with the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sally sweeping through the Gulf: “Hurricane Sally is nothing to take for granted. We ‘re looking at record flooding, perhaps breaking historic levels, and with rising water comes the risk for loss of life and loss of property.” The National Hurricane Centre yesterday issued a similar warning of catastrophic and life-threatening, record flooding, with rain falling continuously for two days. Sally is moving with winds of up to 105 mph. Put this together with wildfires which have been raging in California and we see what is building up for mankind in these times. Online reports say this year’s wildfires are the most catastrophic to hit the Western states in living memory. Thousands of California residents are seeking refuge from the blazes and the number of deaths related to the fires continues to rise. Every year it is events in extremes we read about and mankind seem untouched by the unabating development on our planet.
Back home, our own metrological services have alerted the nation that floods will hit no fewer than 23 states in the land. Ogun State on Tuesday issued a specific advisory naming communities prone to flooding as the second maximum rainfall period sets in which is experienced usually in September. Residents whose homes abut the Ogun River plains should consider relocating until situation normalizes, the state government said.
On the political brick bats, four leading figures, Obasanjo, Wole Soyinka and Ahmed Joda, a prominent permanent secretary of old, as well as Alani Akinrinade, one-time Chief of Army Staff, regional blocs PANDEF, Prof. Atahiru Jega group and former Speaker of House of Representatives, Ghali N’Aba have all spoken drawing attention to worrisome trends in the land. Edwin Clarke wrote an open letter to the President. The pronouncements are all related. As it is now becoming its custom, the Presidency has reacted angrily to Obasanjo’s statement. These are not people or groups that speak frivolously. What did Obasanjo observe that was not being said in public, and in closets or in whispers? It is not all the time that a government and its functionaries will see the total picture. Not when there are pressing issues contending for attention at the same time, which if left unaddressed may have the potential to snowball into tension in the land. What the Presidency ought to demonstrate in its body language is an impression of gratitude that issues are not being swept to fester under the carpet, and give the assurance that it would promptly look into the observations and complaints.
The Press in the free world as well as public figures serves as the barometer to gauge public pulse. American scientist, for example, may have set the tone for the direction in which the American media will move—for or against Mr. Trump. If 2016 is any guide, they were clearly against Mr. Trump. The Dallas Morning News was appalled by the idea of a President Trump. Endorsing Hillary Clinton, the newspaper said: “We don’t come to this decision easily. This newspaper has not recommended a Democrat for the nation’s highest office since before Second World War—if you are counting , that is more than 75 years and nearly 20 elections.”
The Atlantic, said to be a bastion of journalism since 1857, said it did not usually endorse presidential candidates “…except when doomsday is near.” In its 159-year history, the paper said it endorsed only two candidates. The last was in 1964 when it endorsed Lyndon Baines Johnson. The Cincinnati Enquirer said it was breaking a nearly century-long tradition of backing Republicans to support Hillary Clinton, telling its readers: “This is not a traditional race, and these are not traditional times.”
USA Today in its own case did not explicitly endorse Clinton, according to reports. What the paper was quoted as saying was: “Resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means, vote, just not for Donald Trump.”The New York Times said Donald Trump was the least prepared presidential candidate nominated by a major party. “The Republican Party’s trek into the darkness took a fateful step in Indiana…” Giving Mrs. Clinton the nod, The New York Times stated: “Our endorsement is rooted in respect for her intellect, toughness, experience and courage.” In the editorial captioned “Hillary Clinton for President”, the paper said Hillary Clinton has a record of service and a raft of pragmatic ideas, and the other, Donald Trump, discloses nothing concrete about himself or his plans while promising the moon and offering the stars on the layaway… The best case for Hillary Clinton cannot be, and is not, that she isn’t Donald Trump. The best case is instead, about challenges this country faces, and Mrs. Clinton’s capacity to rise to them.” (The paper said it would explain in a subsequent editorial why it was believed Mr. Trump to be worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history).
The Washington Post did not mince words. In its editorial captioned: “It’s beyond debate that Donald Trump is unfit to be President,” the newspaper said: “Even if Trump manages to conduct himself presidentially’ for an hour and a half, that could not undo the many, many instances …in which he has insulted, acted out, lied and countenanced violence beyond even some of the most rough-and tumble precedents of modern American politics.”
Mrs. Clinton led by more than three million popular votes, but lost at the Electoral College. With what America has gone through in the hands of Mr. Trump and the world’s perception of him, the positions of various American and Europeans newspapers and their columnists will make interesting read indeed. I cannot wait to see them roll out their editorials that promise to be hard-hitting. Scientific American has seen the experiment with Mr. Trump and it has blown the whistle. Presidential Spokesman Garba Shehu and Information Minister Lai Mohammed will see then that Obasanjo’s pronouncement is mild in comparison with what we will witness from newspapers. Barrack Obama is already warming up to give a robust and long list of Mr. Trump’s transgressions. His posture was already foreshadowed at the Democratic Party Convention held a couple of weeks back.
Didn’t Francois Marie Arouet (1694-1778) say: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?” Softly, softly, Mr. Spokesman, Sir.
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