In one of his mournful songs, Sorrow, Tears and Blood, that tireless nonconformist, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, sang: everybody run, run, run; everybody scatter, scatter; police de come, army de come; confusion everywhere; somebody nearly died, somebody just died; ten minutes later, police don go away, army don disappear; they leave sorrow, tears and blood. In that sad song, he lamented official brutality that pervaded Nigeria in the days of military rule. Those days, soldiers and policemen brutalized Nigerians, and readily, murdered the innocent.
It was terrible but, by a stretch of the imagination, understandable that under military rule, the police and soldiers left sorrow, tears and blood in their wake. After all, there is a universal and age-long recognition that soldiers, by training and orientation, are ill-equipped for political leadership, and, as such, military rule is an aberration. Centuries earlier, the 18th Century historian and man of letters, Edward Gibbon, in an effusive ridicule of military aptitude for political leadership, wrote: “…the temper of soldiers, habituated at once to violence and (servitude), renders them very unfit guardians of a legal or civil constitution. Justice, humanity, or political wisdom, are qualities they are too little acquainted with, in themselves, and cannot appreciate in others”. Secondly, the soldiers shot their way into power, and could therefore, only hold the people in submission to the gun.
So, as Nigerians chafed under military rule and all its aberrations, they were hopeful; they hoped and longed for democracy. Justifiably, we expected that democracy will usher in a new era marked by a palpable reduction in official corruption, more responsible and humane government policies, conspicuous decline in official brutality and an obvious improvement in the quality of life of the majority of Nigerians. From democracy, we expected social justice, rule of law, elevation of societal morals and ethics and a more equitable distribution of the national wealth.
Disappointingly, after eighteen years of democracy, very little has changed for the better in Nigerian. Like military rulers, the civilian rulers are unimaginably arrogant and shamelessly corrupt. They are just as supercilious – scornfully indifferent – to the plights and woes of the Nigerian masses. They loot the public treasury, maintain perplexingly extravagant lifestyles and treat those they supposedly represent and serve, the Nigerian masses, as the scum of the earth. Unsurprisingly, the hallmarks of Nigeria under military rule, mass poverty, lawlessness, violence, theft of public funds, none payment of workers’ salary, police brutality, etc, remain the defining characteristics of the Nigerian society.
We still run, and still scatter in fear of the police and army for they still leave sorrow, tears and blood in their wake. Although, officially confined to barracks, soldiers, periodically, foray into civilian centers to harass, maim and kill civilians. The Nigerian Police Force remains world renowned for its brutality and extra-judicial killings. It behaves as though it is beholden to an occupation power because the Nigerian political elite behave like an occupation power. An occupation power has no sentimental and patriotic attachment to the occupied country. Therefore, in total apathy to the legitimate aspirations of the people and the good of the country, it rides roughshod over the people and mercilessly exploits the country.
Ironically, we now have more reasons than in the days of military rule to run and scatter. The different levels of governments added to the list of purveyors of sorrow, tears and blood. In addition to the police and soldiers, we now also, run and scatter because Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corp (NSCDC), Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), etc are rampaging through, and leaving sorrow, tears and blood in their trail. We also run and scatter because the siren blaring convoys of our civilian rulers are speeding through. Those unable to scamper out of the way of their zooming motorcades are in for big trouble. Their security details break the windscreen of motorists that could not speedily get out of the way, and then, threaten to shoot them for daring to ask why their windshields were broken. In other instances, they were flogged, beaten up, arrested and detained, even when the “offender” was a mother taking her children to church or an elderly priest groggy from an all night prayer session.
Our “democratic leaders”, in their unmitigated cruelty, routinely bulldoze the homes and businesses of Nigerians without due process. They do these in complete disregard of the hapless men, women and children they abruptly render homeless and the indigent they dispossessed of their sources of subsistence. Recently, against the relentless objection of the people of Owerri and in defiance of a court injunction, the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, demolished the Eke Ukwu Market in Owerri. In his unequaled wickedness, he bulldozed the market at mid-night when the traders were not around to salvage their goods from their stalls.
As the day broke, traders frantically scrambled to retrieve whatever was left of their wares in their demolished stalls. And quite naturally, they protested the unwarranted destruction of their sources of livelihood. For the demolition exercise, and to contain the expected traders’ protest, Governor Okorocha deplored the army, air force, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corp (NSCDC), Department Security Service (DSS) and the police. In their harassment of the traders and protesters, they killed three persons, including a 10 year old boy that was helping his father to recover his goods from his demolished market stall. If Okorocha is not a vicious loony, wholly deranged by grasping avarice and untrammeled power, why did he, in addition to the police, deploy the army, air force, NSCDC and DSS to contain a peaceful protest by unarmed traders?
Why is Nigerian democracy devoid of the essence of democracy: social justice, rule of law and subordination of governing powers to the will of the governed? It is because it was twisted and bent to the personal will of an evil oligarchy. An evil oligarchy matchless in its dictatorial and undemocratic methods; electoral fraud; disregard for human lives; and stealing, sharing and salting away billions of dollars slated for the public good.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
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