There was a man called John Jerry Rawlings
Nigeria is more divided than ever, and the politicians of Nigeria have gone completely mad. It is as though everybody is now totally beyond control. Nigerians have replaced the Constitution with just one word: Impunity.
Of course in this matter of impunity, there is no difference between the parties and the politicians because crossing party lines rampantly like harlots-on-heat is all the rage. There is no redemption in sight for the odious lot. These wanton Nigerian politicians need to be reminded of what happened in Ghana back in 1979.
Then Flight Lieutenant John Jerry Rawlings decided to have a say in the power equation of Ghana by shooting to death three former Heads of State, Generals Ignatius Acheampong, Afrifa, and Fred Akuffo.
Nigerian politicians always lamely assert: “It can never happen here. Nigeria is not Ghana bla… bla… bla…” We only need to be reminded that there is always a first time. Democracy should not be reduced to blackmail as is being currently done in Nigeria. Things are going mightily wrong here, and the leaders appear not to notice.
Hunger has reached unprecedented levels in the history of the country. In the Second Republic, the then Transport Minister Umaru Dikko infamously said that there was no hunger in Nigeria because the people had not started eating from the refuse dumps.
Nobody in their right mind can deny that Nigerians are today scavenging for food from the refuse heaps behind the homes of the rich and powerful. Cost of living is now out of the reach of the so-called average Nigerian. Little wonder most people now take refuge in betting and gambling, and generally wiling away time in the new-fangled churches that promise all kinds of miracles.
The rulers ought to see that there exists in Nigeria today a separation of the government from the people. In one of his more famous poems, the late German playwright Bertolt Brecht made the suggestion that the government ought to dissolve the people and elect another “people” since the people had forfeited confidence in the government!
It is this kind of dangerous pass that leads to bloody revolution. It appears as though the powers-that-be are not in the know that much of the world views Nigeria as a joke, a lost cause. Every report emanating from all cardinal points point to the fact that Nigeria is actually a failed state.
The uncontrolled killing spree of the Fulani herdsmen grates the mind. The vexed matter of Biafra is on the upsurge. The Niger Delta insurgency is threatening to come back in full force. Kidnapping is now the rule rather than the exception. Mind boggling robberies take place with the police running for their dear lives.
Security which ought to be the first guarantee of the government is only observed in the breach. For every Nigerian, it is now OYO (i.e. On Your Own!). Something needs to be given now. When Acheampong was carrying on in Ghana with the largesse of incumbency, he thought quite little of the danger that Rawlings represented.
The initial mutiny of Rawlings was of course thwarted and he was thrown into prison, awaiting execution, only for his group to upturn the apple cart which led to the public execution of Acheampong, Afrifa and Akuffo on charges of corruption.
Things change and remain the same in Nigeria – or in fact get worse: Inconclusive elections… Hopeless budgets… Endless fuel queues… Collapsing currency… Diabolical darkness… Forex abracadabra… Presidential tourism… Judicial absurdities…
People are more or less left embracing self-help. The overconfidence of our ruling politicians reminds me of a passage I read in the trashy fiction of my teenage years, to wit, James Hadley Chase in The Sucker Punch: “It is only when a guy gets so full of confidence in his ability that he is wide open for the sucker punch. I have seen it happen again and again in my racket. A guy commits murder, fakes an alibi and thinks he can cover up. Then wham! And he is flat on his back. Only he’s damn sight worse than a busted jaw.”
Our caterwauling politicians are not unlike the ungainly crooks in the genre thrillers of James Hadley Chase. They will, like all the fictional characters, come to a tacky end in the archetypal mode that stresses: Crime does not pay.
We need to be reminded that the democracy that Ghana is being praised for today came at a steep cost. Rawlings was the man who made change possible in Ghana. It is so saddening that Nigeria may end up needing the shock treatment like that of good old J.J. Rawlings to get its bearing right.
Of course it is not too late in the day for Nigerian leaders to tell themselves the home truth and thus avert the doom that the Rawlings treatment portends. This is not a warning – it is a revelation.