Centenary awards

For the uninformed African leaders who believe Africa was indeed the white man’s burden, Basil Davidson long ago proved that we were all at the same level of development as at the time the Europeans came to disrupt our society. They left behind seeds of social dislocations that will guarantee our continued dependency. Here they set the north against the south. In Congo their legacy after over 300 years were about five university graduates, 600 priests and a Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba with only three years of formal schooling and of course the country final descent to anarchy.

All the same, the celebration of our enslavement and continuous post-colonial exploitation by leaders who lack sense of history has come and gone. Not even some of the legacies of colonial occupation such as the mindless killings of about 59 innocent school children in their dormitories at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi area of Yobe State, the death of about 90 by car bomb in Maiduguiri and scores of our soldiers through ambush by Boko Haram insurgents dampened the enthusiasm of a desperate government bent on giving false impression that all is well. It was all pomp and pageantry as we played the ostrich celebrating unity in Abuja far away from the theatre of wars going on in Maduguiri, Yobe and Adamawa; restive Niger creeks and the killing field Jos has become.

The highpoint of the event was the public recognition of 100 recipients of Nigerian centenary award. The purpose of this contribution is not to belittle the great achievements of some of the recipients. But because Nigerians suffer from collective amnesia while our hip hop new generation of impatient youths have no patience for history, we all need to remind ourselves that many of those currently being celebrated were in fact the architects of our current crisis of nationhood as a result of some of their personal failings as leaders. It is also aimed at telling the current leaders that ‘If gold rust, what shall iron do’? Those that have pillaged our land in the last 14 years will surely not escape the judgment of history because leadership is a privilege that carries great responsibility.

First, lacking a sense of history, we gave pride of place to the British Queen, Lord Frederick Lugard and his mistress who coined the name Nigeria. As it was under slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism, our current leaders still cannot see that globalization which allows some people to decide what we eat, the water we drink, the road we traverse and the education we receive and our economic policy is but another name for slavery.

But let us turn our attention to inheritors of power- Sardauna and Balewa favoured by Britain, Zik, dismissed as untrustworthy and Awo, despised as a communist. The four political rivals got their awards as nationalists. But nationalism itself is not often motivated by altruism. We can ask in retrospect that if indeed their struggle was driven by selflessness, how come they destroyed the house they jointly built out of egoism barely three years after the departure of the colonial masters?

Let us start with Awo, a leader whose admirers considered sinned more against than sinning. Yes the sage was a great leader, the ‘best president Nigeria never had’. But then Awo like most leaders became an oligarch forgetting that compromise is the ‘greatest badge of honour’ in a democracy, which for all intents and purposes, is synonymous with ‘rule of gangs’ with conflicting interests. Akintola was Awo’s scourge against the British and his closest ally in his exploits in the western region between 1952 and 1959. But let us imagine for a moment that Awo had been able to manage his success and recalcitrant deputy; we probably wouldn’t have had an illegal state of emergency by vindictive federal government of NPC and NCNC, the 1965 rigged western regional election, the mayhem that followed as the youths of the West resolved to make Akintola who sowed the wind, reap the whirlwind.

Similarly, the seeds of today mutual suspicion was sowed by his two other awardees – Balewa and Zik who out of greed for power destroyed the West. Let us imagine for a moment that Zik and Balewa had allowed the West to constitutionally resolve its intra-party problem, that Balewa did not encourage the federal police to stay aloof while a few Akintola supporters realising the game was up, started breaking heads with chairs; that the duo did not manipulate the parliament to approve illegal declaration of state of emergency in the West, that a kangaroo parliamentary did not sit to retroactively upturn the Privy Council ruling that confirmed Akintola was constitutionally removed from office, that Balewa who approved illegal declaration of emergency in the West did not choose to play the ostrich, celebrating with visiting commonwealth leaders while the West had descended to anarchy, perhaps there wouldn’t have been a coup by five ideologically confused majors, the elimination of the leadership of the North in January 1965 and the mindless killing of Igbo military officers in July 1966.

I similarly do not begrudge Shehu Shagari, Generals Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo, and Abdul-Salami Abubakar, for the honours bestowed on them by President Jonathan. But let us imagine Shagari’s administration had not embarked on gluttonous consumption that erased the foreign reserve left behind in 1979 by Obasanjo in less than three years and did not go ahead to rig the 1983 election. And we can also look back on what could have been if Buhari, who took over, had not behaved like a reactionary military wing of the then ruling National Party of Nigeria; if his regime had not clamped professor Ambrose Alli, Olabisi Onabanjo, Adekunle Ajasin, Lateef Jakande and others in the opposition who expended their allocations more on free and compulsory education, and establishment of new universities while NPN and NPP governors who took foreign loans for unexecuted projects were let off the hook.

As for Ibrahim Babangida, let us also imagine what could have been if he had not embraced IMF liberalisation economic policy that finally destroyed our naira and budding industries, did not fraudulently take us through eight years of ‘transition without end’, finally annulling the most credible election in our nation’s history and arrogantly handing power over to a quisling he put in charge of a contraption called Interim National Government. Of course Abacha, another celebrated centenary award recipient has been described appropriately by our Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka ‘as a psychopath under whose regime assassinations became routine and torture and other forms of barbarism were enthroned as the norm of governance’; and a leader ‘who placed this nation under siege during an unrelenting reign of terror that is barely different from the current rampage of Boko Haram.’

As for Abdul Salami Abubakar, let us reflect on what would have been the fate of our nation if he had not, through act of omission or commission, allowed the winner of the 1993 election, MKO Abiola who spent four years of his expected presidency in prison to be murdered under his nose. Of course we would not have had an Obasanjo presidency imposing an ailing Yar’Adua and ill-prepared President Jonathan and his politics of subterfuge, intolerance of dissent and disregard for rule of law.

0 views0 comments