Thursday, 19 January 2012

Are the gods to blame?

Those of you who have read or watched the late Professor Ola Rotimi’s great play; “The Gods are to blame,” may or may not be aware that the great man’s play is actually an adaptation of the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles’ work; “Oedipus Rex.”

In the original piece of work, Oedipus, the King of Thebes suffers an unbelievable reversal of fortunes when he discovers his whole life is built on a foundation of falsehoods.

He finds out to his horror that he has killed his father, Laius, married his mother, Jocasta and worse still, he is his children’s half-brother! Wracked with guilt and inconsolable shame, Oedipus considers his fate, and is finally pushed to the limit when Jocasta, on finding out the truth, hangs herself.

Oedipus, upset at not being able to have seen the facts before his very eyes, blinds himself with the pins from Jocasta dress. Orphaned, widowed and blinded, Oedipus loses his throne and is placed under house arrest by his successor and brother-in-law, Creon, who leaves it to the gods to determine his fate. They decided to exile him.

But were the gods themselves to blame?

If I may continue to stretch the artistic license so perfectly applied by the great late professor; now that Nigerians have been blinded, humiliated, orphaned and most definitely on the brink of exile from their birthright, who is to blame for our perilous position?

Increasingly, I see quotes posted via social media pointing to the fact Nigerians have the leaders they deserve. Conversely, every now then, I read articles and quotes stressing opposing views and blaming our situation on the very DNA of the entity we all strive to improve. Nigeria, they say, was put together to serve an economic master who has no interest in the country working out its problems. Continuous strife, disunity and pervasive corruption, are apparently the only currencies that work in the master’s favour.

Well, here’s the thing; everything that happened in Oedipus’ sad story had been predicted years before when Laius, the then King of Thebes had travelled to the oracle at Delphi. Distraught by the predictions, Laius had given baby Oedipus away and ordered him killed.

Alas, this was not to be….destiny is a bitch! As the Yorubas say; “the man destined to eat pounded yam before going to bed, may slumber, but the noise emanating from the mortar and pestle will definitely keep him awake.”

So I wonder whether Nigeria’s current disastrous situation was always ordained in the heavens and all we are only victims of an unfortunate fate. The only way I believed I could satisfy my yearning for an answer, was to go back and read about the early days of country and see what our founding fathers thought of the task before them.

In the end, I found myself asking; was Nnamdi Azikwe actually playing the psychic when he observed;

“I have one advice to give to our politicians. If they have decided to destroy our national unity, then they should summon a round-table conference to decide how our national assets should be divided before they seal their doom by satisfying their lust for office…….it is better for us and many admirers abroad that we should disintegrate in peace and not in pieces. Should the politicians fail to heed this warning, then I will venture the prediction that the experience of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be a child’s play if ever it comes to our turn to play such a tragic role.” 

Or was Obafemi Awolowo already hinting at the vacuity of our patriotism when he said;

Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English,’ ‘Welsh,’ or ‘French.’ The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.”

Or let us consider the haunting words of Amhadu Bello;

“The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather Uthman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the North as willing tools and the South as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to have control over their future”.

One could quibble at my selection of quotes, but could one not also argue that if these were the words emanating from the men who fought for our independence, then perhaps the very foundation of the house we sit in was as false as Oedipus life? Is it a far-fetched argument to postulate the current issues in Nigeria are entrenched in the fact that it could be an untenable entity? Could the truth be this straightforward or are the complexities too great for us mere mortals to decipher?

With the incessant conveyor belt of dark information now emerging about the spurious operations and underhand tactics employed by the custodians of the black gold that holds us continuously captive, is it not becoming quite obvious that our fate has been decided long before the country was born?

But where lays the blame?

Are we really as blameless as Oedipus who (rightly) was only willing to take responsibility for his blindness? Can we take a leaf from his book and blame the gods for the majority of our ills? And if we do, who exactly are these gods? And how do we achieve retribution?

Apollo, the god of the sun, took the brunt for Oedipus’ fate. Some reckon the Apolline predictions obviously spelt out what was to come and surely Apollo could have averted such a tragic ending for a clearly innocent man. There are modern-day Greeks who still subscribe to this belief.

So where do we turn?

Ogun, the god of iron, was the ubiquitous deity in the Ola Rotimi play….maybe we can blame him. Although I wager he will strike out in revulsion, as many of us have deserted him and his fellow chums since the advent of the Bible and Koran carriers from the West and East.


Okay, I am going out on a limb here and assert our gods are no longer the traditional deities who were the parallels of the Apollos and Zeuses of Ancient Greece. Only an insignificant number of us see the likes of Amadiora, Ogun, Sarki and Sango, to name a few, as channels through which we can dialogue with the Almighty. I submit that today, our gods are mere mortals who we have spent the last few decades clothing with extraordinary undeserved powers and reverence.

From the ever-present faces in our ruling classes to captains of industry who have somehow managed to convince us (with our permission) that one’s life means nowt, until you have accumulated incomprehensible riches and inexplicable resources. Put in that mix a few men of God who are always on hand, to continuously bless this collective and you end up with a well seasoned band of brothers.

These are the new-day Nigerian gods. I could name names, but I do not want to give my poor mother a heart attack! She already believes writing about these things is precarious enough.
Having said that, this is one of those situations where identification will be tantamount to overkill. Everyone knows the people we are talking about…….and as to the question of whether they are to blame. Well, let me put it this way.

Is petrol N97 a litre?

There you are then!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

When the Falcon Ignores the Falconer

George Washington, a man constantly regarded in the United States as one of their top three presidents of all time, once said the following;

" “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master"

I don’t know about you, but I read this quote a few times just to ensure I fully digested it. Why, you may ask. Well, the first GW to rule the world’s most powerful country is regularly described as "the father of his country" for his crucial role in fighting for, creating and leading the United States of America in its earliest days. Notably, in spite of his strong belief in governance, he appears he was never blinded to its perils.

Naturally, he was the choice to serve as the country's first president in 1789 after the new United States Constitution was ratified. He accepted power (albeit reluctantly), served two terms, turned down the opportunity for a third and returned to his Virginia farm.

The Nigerian in you may break out in a smirk at the thoughts provoked by the last part of that statement. Here was a man who grudgingly became Commander-in-Chief, ruled his people with a listening ear and left the stage when the ovation was loudest. Novel, isn't it?

The trouble of course with the situation people now find themselves in Nigeria, is a continuous parade of leaders who have flipped the script and treat their constituents with unbelievable disregard and neglect.

The deference required to understand the people is shockingly lacking and the people in charge have somehow convinced themselves the gravy train will run forever, even though it is becoming increasingly evident the stimulus and maintenance requisite for such endless largesse is slowly but surely running out.

The only words of wisdom emanating from our country seem to be from those who are fearless enough to put their heads above the parapet and willing to take the uncertain risk of trying to talk this government into action.

Warnings from writers, political observers and bloggers on imminent issues - the dangers of impending religious conflict, the slide of Nigeria into a potential occupied country and the inevitable uprising amongst the dissatisfied - way ahead of these events occurring; have all clearly fallen on deaf ears.

Like the Pharaohs before them; our leaders have lost all powers of patience, reverence and perspective. Maybe the situation is a lot simpler and the people at the top are just devoid of ‘No’ men who could bite the bullet and tell the President what he needs to hear, rather than what he wants to hear..

Maybe no one in Aso Rock is given the task of picking up newspapers (like in most civillised governments) and gauging the mood of the people on the ground and reporting to the President. Maybe those of us who have not tasted power are not equipped to comprehend what it takes to rule so badly....maybe it's a power thing!

Maybe it is just a case of the powerful joining the ignorant school of thought that believes Nigerians will never risk their lives to achieve change. Only God knows what occupies the minds of the privileged!

But if I were affiliated to this government, I would be warning it about the fact that no army; no matter how efficient and no force; no matter how expedient, can handle a Nigerian ‘spring’ (for the lack of a better phrase).

I would tell the President it is extremely hazardous to underestimate the damage that can be inflicted when lawlessness becomes the currency of the day. I would draw the attention of the executive and legislative fat cats to the swift and brutal ending of the Gaddaffi network. If he could fall, I would suggest no power structure should allow itself to be lured into a false sense of security.

It is not a matter of' 'if'……things are beginning to fall apart. The subsidy protest is just the tip of the iceberg.....a distraction compared to the imminent avalanche gathering momentum, from decades of stewed resentment and revulsion for everything government in Nigeria.
The Falcon is increasingly ignoring the Falconer and unless things start to change now; it may not be able to find its way home.