Nigerian leaders are not curse, as former President Obasanjo now asserts. There are historical and structural reasons why people of the country and others in Africa are suffering from incompetent leadership
General Olusegun Obasanjo who misruled Nigeria for eleven years recently went to Ibadan to curse corrupt and inept rulers of Nigeria, including himself, when he stated: ‘Maybe we are all going to hell’. He may have intended the ‘we’ to refer to all Nigerians but if I understand him correctly, he was referring to those of them with full responsibility for the misgovernment that has bedevilled the country before and after independence. No sane person will include blessed and hard-working Nigerians, high achieving individual Nigerians who excel internationally against all the odds and the victimized impoverished Nigerians who suffer a life of hell on earth due to the wicked misrule or incompetence of General Olusegun Obasanjo and his class allies among those who are condemned to hell fire by his own mouth. And some Nigerians have already said Amen to Obasanjo’s self-curse.
Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria, saw things differently as early as the 1930s when he wrote a ‘Beatitude to the Youth’ of Africa in which he said alliteratively that ‘Blessed Are the Youth’ but in which he also concluded by echoing that ‘Cursed are the Old Africa’ for obstructing the emergence of the Renascent Africa and the new Africa. Then again years before he died, Azikiwe renewed this clear distinction of his by stating that ‘History will vindicate the just’ in a statement that concluded by re-emphasizing that ‘God shall punish the wicked’.
In the curse against himself and people like him, Obasanjo actually revealed the open secret why he suspects that Nigerian misrulers are jinxed. He stated in that rambling self-righteous monologue that he went to visit Mwalimu Julius Nyerere because Nyerere recognized Biafra and Nyerere gave him a simple riddle that he is yet to unravel. According to him, Nyerere told him that his ministers in Tanzania will claim that they were not corrupt and yet their infant children had numerous choice properties in Europe and North America. Why would Nyerere say that to an ethnic war-lord like Obasanjo?
Perhaps Obasanjo was arrogantly campaigning for support for the ongoing genocide against fellow Africans and had the cheek to go and attempt to bribe the revered Nyerere to end his recognition of Biafra. Instead of ending the recognition, Nyerere went ahead and named major streets in Tanzania after Biafra in protest against that monumental injustice of the genocidal killing of more than three million Africans under the command of Obasanjo and his hell-bent misrulers who cruelly declared that ‘all is fair in warfare’. Those iconic street names remain today in Tanzania while Obasanjo and his cursed fellow misgovernors abolished the historic name of the Bight of Biafra as if that will wipe away the evidence of their genocidal crimes against humanity. Today, simply flying the flag of Biafra in commemoration of the innocent dead in Nigeria (as is done in enlightened countries that use the opportunity to create flourishing tourist industries) will invite extra judicial killings that go on unabated.
If you are superstitious, you may point to the Igbo genocide as the cause of the curse that Obasanjo said was upon him and his class of ‘irresponsible’ marauders. The Bible commands that ‘Thou Shall Not Kill’ and I understand that the Koran teaches that ‘If you kill one of God’s children, you kill all of God’s children.’ What part of that commandment do self-accursed misrulers like Obasanjo and his ilk not understand? They did not just kill one or two or three of God’s children which is bad enough – they killed three million plus. And yet more than forty years later, they have not offered any apology and they have not offered any reparations. As Nigerians always say, God is not asleep, and so it is no surprise that Nigerian misrulers are a condemned bunch, from their own horse’s mouth. They are all going to burn in hell for their evil deeds, according to Obasanjo. Why not? Except that God is a loving and forgiving God, quite unlike the unrepentant tyrants who are only paranoid about their deserved place in the afterlife. Repent!
It is not only Nigerian tyrants that appear to be cursed due to what Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe relentlessly condemns as the foundational genocide of post-colonial Africa – the Igbo genocide. All the countries that facilitated that genocide have apparently also been cursed: The Soviet Union has vanished from the world map and its successor, Russia, continues to battle insurgents in some of its regions; the UK is about to be dismembered given the impending vote for independence by oil-rich Scotland which will probably be followed by Wales and by Northern Ireland all of which already have their devolved governments; and Egypt which provided the air force pilots that bombed Igbo women in market places during the war now appears to welcome the chickens back to its own roost as the same officers trained by Mubarak when he was the commander of the air force college during the Biafra war now devour their own people in the thousands. What goes around comes around also in Northern Nigeria where the pogrom against the Igbo started and in the Middle Belt where most the killings took place when train-loads of escapees were waylaid and slaughtered. But the native doctor who concocts diarrhea cannot hide his own buttocks in the sky according to an Igbo proverb because when the rain falls, it won’t fall on one man’s housetop, sang Bob Marley.
General Gowon who presided over that genocide has gone around the country asking people to pray for Nigeria. I wonder what kind of prayers Nigerians pray for their country. It is likely to be the same self-glorious prayer that they say on their televangelist call-ins when they always ask god to destroy their enemies. Rarely do Nigerians admit wrong-doing and ask for forgiveness of their sins.
When Chinua Achebe tried to heal the sore-ridden conscience of the nation in There Was a Country, the unrepentant blood-thirsty tyrants that were still alive and their phantom ‘intellectual’ lackeys pretended to be offended by the objective truth and went on boasting that the genocide against the Igbo was justifiable. Gowon’s initial ignorant comment was that he ‘did not know if Achebe will be getting a penny from that book’, a baffling response from someone who holds a doctoral degree from a top UK university.
Of course, no genocide is ever justifiable and condemning genocide is not about getting pennies. Thus General Gowon who reacted emotionally to There Was A Country without reading a single page of the damning book, has recently started singing a different tune. Perhaps for the first time, he now admits that lots of innocent fellow Nigerians were killed and their properties destroyed due to the abuse of power during the war and that there is a need for justice to be done to our fellow citizens. Belatedly, Ohaneze Ndigbo has set up a reparations committee to seek the reparations that were demanded in the recommendations of the official Justice Oputa Panel report which President Obasanjo attempted to suppress but was unofficially published online.
It is tempting to agree with the superstition that Nigerians, nay Africans and people of African descent globally are cursed. I have heard highly educated Africans explore this hypothesis that everywhere black people are in power, nothing seems to work because, as a pejorative saying among Diaspora people of African descent puts it, black people can’t run snow. Some of the people who hold this mistaken belief yearn for the re-subjection of black people to the terror of oppressive white rule or direct colonialism as the panacea for the perceived ineptitude or wickedness of black misrulers. But history is not a mystery.
Personally, I do not agree that Nigeria is cursed, for as Ola Rotimi would put it, The Gods Are Not to Blame. There are historical and structural reasons why people of African descent are suffering the incompetent leadership that we are burdened with today. As Obi Igwe put it in one of his gospel songs, what we need are leaders (Ndi ndu, also literally, forces of life) and not rulers (Ndi ochichi, also literally, forces of darkness). There are some concrete steps we can take to reverse the ineptitude at the leadership level and uplift our people from avoidable penury in the midst of plenty:
First, I call for a National Day of Igbo Mourning to be declared as a public holiday in memory of the millions who were genocidized in Biafra. During that day, every year, let all Nigerians embark on a general fasting and all the money saved on food and drinks should be donated to the Igbo reparations fund while parents will use the opportunity of the national demonstration of penance to teach future generations that what was done to the Igbo must not be allowed to happen again in Africa. This could be done also by using the day of mourning to promote history literacy through the communal reading of the history of the genocide.
Secondly, the Federal Government of Nigeria should allocate 100 billion naira every year for at least 40 years to the Fair Igbo Reparations Mandate (FIRM) as a token recognition of the inhumane crimes committed against our people by our own government. No group of Nigerians would lose anything when the government eventually recognizes that killing three million of our people was completely wrong and pays reparations. The amount suggested here annually is chicken feed compared to what one of these hell-bent misrulers steal with impunity relentlessly.
The Federal Government of Nigeria and Ohaneze Ndigbo should demand for the foreign countries that supported the genocide to contribute to the Fair Igbo Reparations Mandate because when this evil is recognized and forgiveness is requested through the token payment of reparations, the knock-on effects in the national conscience will yield a greater consideration for human life, create massive wealth that the cosmopolitan Igbo will spread across the country and across Africa for the benefit of all, and help to produce conscientious leaders who will help Nigerians and Africans to reach their full potentials.
Finally, Nigerians should follow the example of Nyerere, Nkrumah and Du Bois and recognize that evil against any African anywhere is not an internal affair of any country or state. Rather, we should fast forward the unification of Africa into the People’s Republic of Africa in a way similar to democracies of scale that are more viable because unity is strength. When Africa is finally united in a continental government, no single group of Africans will ever be able to wake up one morning, slap their buttocks, and embark on ethnic cleansing in Africa because the rest of us will rise to put an end to any attempted genocide in Africa by internal or external forces.
* Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA.
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR/S AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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