And Shame Died in Rivers by Pat Utomi
And shame died. On July 9, 2013, they put shame to shame and gave impunity a new meaning on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the dramatic abduction of then Governor of Anambra State, Chris Ngige, by hooligans in association with officers of the Nigeria Police and the acquiescent nudge of approval of the Obasanjo’s Presidency. That took Nigeria to pre-coup Wild, Wild West battles in the old Western Region. The Rivers State House of Assembly which degenerated to a Hobbesian state of nature, when the Peoples Democratic Party crisis went further south seemed set to win the Shame Olympics. Blood was shed, mayhem was on display and even the Chief Security Officer of the state, Governor Chibuike Amaechi, was believed to have been threatened as an order for him to be shot rang out from those opposed to him. How did we sink so low and why is our democracy being sabotaged by those who have profited so much from its abuse, the politicians, and what are the consequences of the grooving loss of legitimacy by Nigeria’s fledgling democracy? The answers may not be blowing in the wind.
Perfecting the ugly comes with practice. See what practice they may have had. Obasanjo’s era removal of the Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and the siege on Ngige matched so closely, in terms of outrage and damage to the rule of law by the Umaru Yar’Adua gang abuse of the constitution in “presiding” over the country in the name of the then vegetative president, and now by the PDP’s insult on the Nigerian people in trying to subvert the outcome of the chairmanship election of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. We have steadily declined from ego-tripping military men assaulting the dignity of road users, to the impunity of wilful damage of public property with no consequences as with the Anambra scorched earth destruction of all what was valuable in government structures, and then the coup of the Yar’Adua mafia that held Goodluck Jonathan in the No Man’s Land as the man who could act but could not be called Acting President, so that others could govern over him, in the name of a man in the land of the living dead to this present state.
Jonathan clearly has learnt much in the art of making the ugly robe, then stripping a helpless Nigerian people in the market place. The dance of the naked is far from erotic. Make no mistake about it, the dance in the Rivers House of Assembly which may spill into a mini civil war, in a state where there are enough arms floating around to sink the Titanic, is only a dress rehearsal for the worse to come.
Our democracy and the governing of a people in desperate need of government, has fallen into the hands of people who are neither democrats nor people grounded in governance. More frightfully though is that our country has fallen into the hands of people who do not have the breeding to understand the consequences of their actions for history.
I doubt that any of the players in this macabre game desire the coming anarchy they are setting us up for but the limitation of their exposure is such that the consequence escapes them. Not even signals like the US President Barack Obama’s snub of Nigeria in the recent tour of Africa has been translated into knowledge for action that will better serve the people. So, where do we go from here?
Weak and now almost comatose civic society in Nigeria must quickly look up to the extent of the damage being inflicted on the core of the Nigerian essence. Egypt tells of the possibilities of concerned citizenship behaviour in the people being taken for granted. Unless the people organise, the churches, mosques and other institutions of socialisation motivate citizen action, I fear the quality of current politicians in the country is such we can be led down the track of the predicted coming anarchy without their realising what they are doing.
But we must learn lessons from all this. The first lesson is that we still have not developed good institutional memory and so keep repeating yesterday’s mistakes. Maybe, it is because of the failure of consequence management.
Many who have abused the system seem to get away with it. Vertical accountability structures are so not in place and the generally hushed up idea that elections are rigged, damages the ultimate legitimating construct of democratic society. This crisis of legitimacy needs further reflection and is ultimately traceable to the absence of ideas and contestation over ideas remains critical.
We need to stop the politicians of Ghandi’s Politics without Principles before we lose this process and find that the rule of law we currently see in recession is lost forever as we fall off the 21st century. As lawmakers become warring lawbreakers in Port Harcourt and provide great feedstock to our creative entertainment industry, the more fundamental solution lies in making politics less materially lucrative and enormously costly for those who are rash, violent and lacking in decency. Increasingly, it seems to me that a revolution may be required to save us from this collapse of culture of which the Rivers experience is symptomatic.
The greater tragedy is the failure of elders to act. No African society should be lacking in elders who speak truth to power. What a sad time for Nigeria!
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