A Centipede at Work
If for nothing else, Nigerians may have to thank Goodluck Jonathan for his pained honesty. He has gone about his duty with a cheery clumsiness which is quite endearing. Not for him the volcanic incompetence of his mentor and predecessor. What else do we want? He has told us that he is neither the brightest nor the best but that God chose him ahead of the more deserving. That is the nature of history and a tribute to the mysterious ways of God. Ahead of 2015, let all of those questioning the will of God beware.
But let us leave God out of this matter for once. Let us depart to the realm of insects and Entomology. There is something about Jonathan which reminds snooper of a particularly unsettling and dangerous species of centipedes. Centipedes are a funny and nasty lot. Unlike the gamey and bold scorpion which does not leave you in doubt about its intention, the centipede is outwardly drab and colourless but it packs some dangerous poison in its venom claws. When it hits you, you go benignly berserk.
All of this may well be the demented outpouring of a novelist imagination gone haywire, so you have to pardon snooper. In Yoruba rural folklore, there is a variant of centipedes which operates mainly in dark and dingy corners. When it hits a child, it begins to shout for more wraps of cold pap. It is known as Tamosánko. Has anybody noticed the sudden scarcity of cold pap in the nation, particularly in the old north and the fabled west? A political centipede is on the loose.
When a centipede combines the memory of an elephant with its natural venomous advantage, the result can be very devastating indeed. Revenge is then elevated to statecraft. There is a lot of wailing and crying for cold pap in the land. If the wailing coincides with the cry of vengeance in the nation, then all is well that ends well. But if it is due to the motiveless malignity of a centipede, then good luck to Goodluck.
In a post-colonial state, dysfunction has its own functions. But political dystopia also has its own wages. The events of the past two years in Nigeria have clearly shown that it is not only revolutions that consume their children, malignant retrogression also does. We may yet have Jonathan to thank for this. It may well be that while contributing his own quota to the national mess, some higher mysterious forces are at work, using the same Jonathan to illustrate and illuminate the order of disorder and why political irrationality must come consume its own patrons.
Three years ago, if anybody had told James Ibori that he would end up as a lone prisoner, a convicted thief in a metropolitan jailhouse, he would have laughed the person to scorn. At that point, he was at the height of his power and glory, determining who went in and out of Aso Rock and who got what appointment. With the hulking gait of a master crook, he held Jonathan in particular contempt. Where and who was Jonathan when he ruled the roost in Delta?
The formerly shoeless one from Otueke was a lowly sidekick and spare tire to the “Governor General” Squadron Leader D.S.P Alams. In fact the tire was so spare that it was considered practically useless. The story was told of how an unlucky Jonathan had heedlessly wandered into a room where visiting governors were being entertained by his boss only to be summarily ejected after some verbal rockets from his affronted master. The shoeless one slunk away with a frozen grin.
But it is obvious that it is Jonathan who has had the last laugh over all of them. Having secured its territory, the centipede went after Ibori with quiet but relentless determination. Like the rogue Pablo Escobar, he was hounded and hunted down the creeks. When the creeks got too hot, Ibori jumped canoe and headed for the Middle East. With the globalization of policing against money laundering, it was like jumping from frying pan to fire. The Metropolitan Police were waiting.
Ibori’s conviction is a historic indictment of the Nigerian judiciary and legal authorities. Our corrupt judges have brought shame and dishonour to the nation’s judiciary. It is only in Nigeria that a convicted thief can become a governor, courtesy of the Nigerian judiciary. But as we noted in this column only two weeks ago, when a society reaches an ethical or political dead end and in the absence of internal revolutionary forces for radical changes, the resolution is brought about by an antagonistic logic supplied by outsiders. This is what has happened in the particular case of James Onanefe Ibori.
Once again, it is obvious that Nigeria cannot just continue like this. When some cruel scoundrels cream off and make away with pensions meant for the aged and the elderly even as some of the pensioners perish on queues while waiting for the miserable stipends, it is clear that something drastic will have to be done to instill elementary humanity into these animals. A nation which treats its aged work force with such callousness cannot claim membership in the comity of civilized countries.
The revelations from the various panels show that Nigeria is in a historic mess. Even if the political elite want the status quo to remain, it is obvious that we cannot continue this way without tipping into total anarchy. This is the time Nigeria needs a heavy duty leadership. Unfortunately, it is obvious that Jonathan neither has the capacity for the hard slog or the steely character for the brutal confrontation required to move Nigeria forward.
Having exhausted its thirst for revenge, the centipede now appears to have run out of rationale and psychological motivation. While it lasted, the centipede collected some outstanding scalps, the last of which was Timipre Sylva, the gangling and aristocratic former governor of Bayelsa , who could barely conceal his disdain for Jonathan. But revenge may be elevated to statecraft, it is never a noble pursuit; and while it may sometimes coincide with popular justice, revenge is never a substitute for genuine and impersonal social justice.
In the coming months, Jonathan will be confronted by a convergence of two antithetical political and social quandaries. Having run out of real old enemies the tendency may be to create imaginary new enemies. This will upset the delicate political equations in some politically sensitive areas of the nation. On the other hand, in order to deliver on genuine social justice, he will have to go after his friends and some close allies. Failure to do this may invite an ethical sandstorm which will transform into a political upheaval. There is mounting popular anger and revulsion out there and how he handles this will determine Nigeria’s immediate future.
Tatalo Alamu, The Nation
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