Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Military Rule As Sacramental Democracy

Nigeria is in the high season of worship. What passes for democracy in the old country is what has come to be dubbed “Buhari Worship”. The toadying submission put at the feet of President Muhammadu Buhari is akin to religious fervor. It is a sacrament that brooks no opposition. The motley masses who counter the ways of Buhari are dismissed by the Buhari worshippers as “Wailing Wailers”. Buhari is being lionized for giving Nigerian democracy iron teeth, a feat beyond the soft ways of civilian politicians. The ready Buhari mantra, whether as military head of state or civil president, is the fight against corruption.
            To go back in history, Nigeria’s first coup as arranged by Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna, Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and their fellow majors did raise the issue of corruption as a major prong of why they struck to sack the First Republic. The entire coup attempt got mired in the corruption of ethnic politics until there was the counter-coup. Of course the Nigeria-Biafra war supervened. After the war, Nigeria’s first president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe proposed the adoption of the theory of Diarchy in which the soldiers would be sharing power with civilians, given the background that once the jackboots had tasted power they can never ever allow themselves to be far away from it. The great man known as Zik had many critics who would have nothing to do with is proposition.
            The Nigerian military enjoyed a long stay in power until the Second Republic was inaugurated in 1979 with Alhaji Shehu Shagari as President. Of course the military overthrew the civilian government on the last day of 1983 with the selfsame charge of corruption ruling the airwaves amid martial music. Incidentally, Buhari who is back in power today with the mantra of corruption in his every utterance was the military ruler back then who jailed many opposition politicians with uncountable years of imprisonment because of – you guessed it – corruption. A major player in the Second Republic, Alhaji Umaru Dikko who had escaped to London, gave a countering press conference that corruption was only a smokescreen for the coup. According to Umaru Dikko, the soldiers took power because they were angry that the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) had paved the way for Vice-President Alex Ekwueme, an Igbo from the former Biafran enclave, to succeed Shagari as President. Buhari arranged a bungled attempt to put Umaru Dikko in a crate to bring him back to Nigeria.
            The other dimension was that the military bigwigs did not find it funny that Shagari pardoned the Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and brought him back to Nigeria from Cote d’Ivoire in a blaze of overwhelming fanfare. When the Second Republic was overthrown Ojukwu was put away in prison by Buhari even as the former Biafran leader held no political post.
            Even as the military took power then, touting Buhari’s integrity, the army boys would soon overthrow him with the charge that he was too parochial and unaccommodating given the largeness of the Nigerian enterprise. The military brought forward Military President Ibrahim Babangida to dominate the Nigerian space with political mumbo-jumbo, economic hocus-pocus and not a little corruption thrown in as state policy. It became quite clearer than structural adjustment that the military brass-hats could jump higher heights of corruption than their civilian counterparts. Babangida succumbed to the final disgrace when he annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by his bosom friend Bashorun MKO Abiola. Amid nationwide riots Babangida quit power after cobbling up a very wobbly kind of “Diarchy” featuring Chief Ernest Shonekan and General Sani Abacha.
            It did not take daredevil Abacha any time at all to kick out the overmatched Chief Shonekan. Whatever the civilian politicians achieved in corruption was eclipsed by Abacha. Yes, Abacha’s loot was so much that it forced open even the secrecy of the secret vaults of the Swiss banks! Upon the dubious death of Abacha, the military knew it had lost all respectability for staying in power. Even so, the military honcho had to recruit its retired type, General Olusegun Obasanjo, to take over as civilian president in 1999. It is a well known Nigerian fact that the more things change, the more they remain the same. That is why the legendary musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti will never truly die so long as his album “Army Arrangement” still plays, and his lines such as “Soja don put everybody for reverse” remain on the lips of all and sundry.
            When Obasanjo had to leave power against his personal wish and desire after his Third Term bid failed, he brought to power an ailing civilian, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who of course died on the job. The next civilian on the line, the then Vice-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, met with all makes of obstacles before he could replace the dead man as President. Jonathan ran the most sabotaged presidency ever. It was all war on the political front.
            The clear and present danger became that Nigeria would cease to exist as a nation if ever Jonathan won re-election. Buhari thus became a godsend of change. Buhari has since ascended the seat of power, but old habits die hard. The old reasons for which he was overthrown by his military compatriots back in 1985 are already manifesting in a so-called democracy. Security agents can now brazenly invade a Government House, as happened the other day in Akwa Ibom State. No matter whatever the Buhari worshippers of military rule as sacramental democracy would have us believe the obvious truth has to be told. In the school of democracy, Buhari is not qualified to be in the kindergarten class. He ought to be in crèche. If it is military rule we want in this benighted country, let’s call it by its name instead of abusing the hallowed name of democracy.                

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Wanted: Sanity Inspector of Politics (SIP)

Nigerian politics has gone to the dogs, and something needs to be done urgently to save the dear nation. There are too many madmen and women parading as politicians and democrats in this country. There is the urgent need to appoint a Sanity Inspector of Politics (SIP) to check the mental state of anybody purporting to be a politician in Nigeria.
Time was when Nigeria boasted of Sanitary Inspectors who ensured the general cleanliness of the country; and Nigeria was amply rewarded back then by being ranked all over the world as a healthy nation. Now what needs to be inspected is the sanity of our so-called political godfathers and change-agents; whence the urgency to have an SIP.
            The head of the Sanity Inspectorate must be armed with the knowledge of parapsychologists such as the then celebrated duo of Godspower Oyewole and Godwin Okunzua, both of blessed memory, so as to be able to foretell if the given politician would at a future date run roaring mad on acquisition of power. You see, what generally happens is that these politicians start out as meek normal human beings when asking for the votes of the people initially. They only run mad completely once power gets on their lap. So the needed SIP of Nigeria must be able to tell the future.
            We must learn to make use of what we have to get what we want. It’s so sad that we let the talents of Godspower Oyewole and Okunzua go to waste when we ought to have used them to probe into the diseased brains of our politicians. The duo could have, for instance, foretold the antics of that former Speaker who claimed to have bagged a very fictitious degree in Chicago University. The fake Speaker would have been stopped in his tracks from the very beginning instead of wasting everybody’s time.
            A very sharp Sanity Inspector would have known from the very beginning that our former president planned a Third Term to keep him in power forever. The SIP would have dismissed the Third Term dreamer thusly: “Get thee away from me, sit-tight power monger! You are hereby disqualified from politics for life!” This would have saved Nigeria all of the Ghana-Must-Go bags that were ferried into the National Assembly during the charged Third Term debates. And what is more, Nigeria would not have been saddled with the very deadly virus known as Do-or-Die politics!
               Like the godfather in Mafia movies, the SIP never sleeps. He can function anywhere, from the most local of local governments to the gilded throne of Aso Rock. His powers must not be countermanded by even the President. His task of saving us from the madness of our politicians must not be compromised in any way.
            Any SIP worthy of the name can by just looking at a potential state governor say: “I have seen it in my crystal ball that you are so mad that you would be killing your political opponents on a weekly basis once you have the killer immunity of power. It has been revealed to me that you would be using the blood of your killed opponents to brush your teeth every morning! So off you go!”
            The presence of the SIP would go a long way in putting the fear of God in all aspiring politicians. None of the politicians would thus have the nerve to store any evil inside of him as this would easily be uncovered by the daredevil SIP. The foreknowledge that one must pass through the inspection of the sanity man or woman as the case may be would make the politician to say farewell to evil. This way, any fellow who addresses himself as Evil Genius is marked for failure from the very start!
            With the sanity of all the politicians in place, Nigeria will no longer have any need to fear about people’s votes not being made to count. It was the free field given to madmen who practised “do-or-die” politics that all but ruined our electoral politics. Of course it stands to reason that it is only a fully-fledged madman who can preach the evil philosophy of democracy without real elections.
            There had been the cases of some politicians scoring more votes than the population of whole states let alone the list of registered voters. No SIP worth his crystal ball of foreknowledge would let this madness to happen.  
            Having come up with this very nationalistic idea of appointing a Sanity Inspector of Politics (SIP) I expect to be rewarded with having my name in the next national honours list! Only the few mad politicians would oppose me in this matter! Let the sane ones in our midst rise up to my defence!     

Friday, January 9, 2015

Christmas And A Troubled Christendom

Pope Francis in his Christmas message to the Cardinals and the Curia blasted the church leaders for suffering from 15 “ailments”. Even so, Pope Francis raised the precarious status of priesthood thusly: “I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly."
Religion provides an anchor to the lives of believers. The belief in a Supreme Being lends meaning to man’s existence on earth, and the promise of the afterlife makes the toil of life more bearable. Toying with matters of faith almost always brings conflagration in its wake; little wonder church and state can hardly ever be yoked together. In the liberal evolution of the world the church, given its innate conservatism, has met with much controversy.
            The confirmation of the openly homosexual Rev. Canon Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire in the United States whipped up so much controversy within the ambit of Christianity, especially the Protestant or Anglican dominion. Anglican bishops in much of Africa, Asia and Latin America severed ties with the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia when it sponsored same-sex marriage, a development rocking the church across the globe. The 77 million worldwide members of the Anglican Communion are mired in a crisis that gets more intractable by the day.
            Christianity is indeed in dire straits. Like the church at Antioch, its many followers are seeing all kinds of visions. Witch-catchers and sundry demon-arresters are today parading themselves as Christian preachers and Pentecostal evangelists. There are more charlatans on the pulpits of Christianity than there are criminals on the streets of Lagos and Onitsha. You can sum up the antics of these so-called Christians with one short sentence: The devil finds work.
            The early church found its anchor by the salvation of the soul. The Nigerian church mostly preaches material success. Prosperity is the word. Every pastor stresses that his “God is not a poor God,” and the name of the game is crass materialism. There is no greater trading organization than the church.
            There is the need to return Christianity to its roots. The church should go back to its spiritual moorings in the Bible, to wit, when Christ anointed St. Peter. The Catholic Church traces its history to Christ’s naming of Peter the Apostle as the rock on which the church is built, thus naming him the first Pope. The Catholic Church was the universal faith until 1517 when in Wittenberg, Germany Martin Luther challenged the Catholic sale of indulgences and the doctrine of salvation by merit. Henry VIII followed suit in 1534, breaking from Rome for marital-cum-political reasons. Thus was born the Protestant Anglican Communion which got a boost when the Protestant Episcopal Church was founded in the United States in 1789.
            John Calvin’s efforts during the 16th Century Reformation movements led to the birth of the Calvinists and ultimately to the founding of the Scotch Presbyterian Church by John Knox in 1560. The history of the Baptists dates back to John Smyth and the English Separatists of 1609; and later, Roger Williams of Providence in 1638. The Methodists started out within the Church of England, Rev. John Wesley having founded it in 1738. The Church of Christ Disciples would in turn challenge the decline of fervor and the factionalizing within Protestantism by carving out yet another faction among evangelical Presbyterians from 1804 to 1832. Joseph Smith received visions of the Angel Moroni as revealed on the golden tablets of The Book of the Mormons to found the faith of the Mormons in 1827 in New York. Charles Taze Russell founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses movement in 1870, incorporating the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in 1884; and the church finally adopted the Jehovah’s Witnesses name in 1931. A major rupture in Christianity occurred in the American cities of Topeka and Los Angeles in 1901 and 1906 when the Pentecostal movement of “speaking in tongues” began as a reaction to the loss of fervor among Methodists and sundry Christians at large. The advent of Pentecostalism has been quite sweeping across the globe.
            To take one example of church-founding from nearer home, Samuel Bilewu Joseph (SJB) Oschoffa founded the Celestial Church of Christ in 1947 in the jungles of Porto-Novo after wandering in the forest for three months without food or water. Like the other sects, the Celestial fold has broken into factions since the death of the founder.
            The history of the church as summarized here clearly shows that all the other churches in one way or the other were protesting against the Roman Catholic Church, the pristine universal faith.
            The crucial issue to address to save Christianity is that the dissenting churches have over the years not fared any better than the original church. Vatican Council 2 has shown that the church is not inimical to change from within. Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council in October 1962, saying: “The whole world expects a step forward.” Well over 2,400 patriarchs, cardinals, bishops and religious superiors participated in the proceedings. In an unprecedented display of accommodation, observers from Protestant and Orthodox churches were consulted and sat in attendance at the deliberations. Vatican 2 differed markedly from the 20 previous ecclesiastical assembles of Roman Catholicism that preceded it, and the 16 promulgated decrees, constitutions and declarations are a testament to modernization and liberation. It was Pope Paul VI who closed Vatican 2 in 1965, proclaiming it as “among the greatest events of the church.”
            With the “Poor Pontiff” blasting the church leaders over their many “ailments”, there is an urgent need to return Christianity to its roots.