STATE OF THE NATION;STATE OF THE WORLD – UPDATE
Nigeria’s GENERAL ELECTIONS have come and gone.
It was a landmark event. Tension had been rising all over the country over the years – in all sectors. The incumbent president Dr Goodluck Jonathan had his hands full trying to propagate his “Transformation Agenda” for the benefit of the nation. But he is a man who is far from being at ease. The dreaded Boko Haram Terror group has been terrorizing the North East of the country – killing, maiming, kidnapping at will. A state of emergency was put in place in the three states of the region: Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. But this did not deter the terrorists.
An American organization had predicted two years ago that Nigeria would break up in 2015.
Then the 2015 General Elections came. Sitting pretty on the Incumbency seat is President Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The party has been in power since the establishment of Unbroken Democratic Rule in 1999. It has always been impossible to dislodge a sitting president.
But this time around, the unusual happened. Some political parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) led by Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) led by Retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, a former military head of state in the 1980″s; a faction of the APGA led by Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha merged to form a gigantic Opposition party, the ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC). General Muhammadu Buhari was chosen as their Presidential candidate.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history. The APC won the election with a margin of over two million votes. Now Muhammadu Buhari is the President Elect waiting to be sworn-in May 29, 2015
AS A ROUND-UP OF THE ELECTION, we here present a write-up published on the front page of the Guardian Newspaper on the 1st of April, 2015.
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NOW, JONATHAN IS GREATER THAN HIS PREDECESSORS
THE GUARDIAN; WED, 1ST. APRIL 2015.
PRESIDENT Goodluck Ebele Jonathan yesterday took a step that has made him greater than all others before him.
By calling and congratulating Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) even before the final tally, he has demonstrated to the world that indeed Nigeria has come of age.
He has shown the world that the black man is no longer in a dilemma. As it was written in this newspaper last Friday, the management and outcome of this election would affect the profile and indeed, image of the black man in global context.
The reason is not far to seek: Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world. Jonathan set the tone for greatness on Saturday, March 28 when he waited patiently for the fourth card reader to work for him and his wife in Otueke on the day of the election.
The Number One citizen who has been criticised for his simplicity was statesmanly in his response to questions after his ordeal. He was unruffled even when his wife who was in front was always looking back to hear her husband’s presidential outburst. The man was ununfazed, cool and collected.
He even did some strategic public relations for the election management agency as he asked people to be patient with the implications of new technology of the card reader.
All told, the fact that Jonathan nominated Jega who conducted the 2011 election and allowed him to conduct the 2015 elections is remarkable.
The president was said to have resisted the pressure of his henchmen and hawks in his party to send Jega on pre-retirement leave before the election at the weekend.
Since last night when the news of Jonathan’s congratulatory message broke, it has been all praises for the President as that gesture was unexpected and unprecedented.
No incumbent president had lost an election and congratulated the winner in our political history. Even General Abdusalami Abubakar who handed over to Obasanjo on May 29, 1999 confirmed this yesterday when he emerged from a peace meeting with the defeated president.
In an analysis in this newspaper’s special publication on Friday, it was projected that if Jonathan lost the reelection bid and bowed out seamlessly, he could be a candidate of the prestigious MO Ibrahim’s leadership Prize next year.
As it was written then, Jonathan has by his action threatened to assume office of a great man, a rare phenomenon in Nigeria. It is generally believed that there are too many big men in Nigeria and too few great men.
Now, the man from Otueke can beat his chest to General IBB who annulled the famous June 12 election result in 1993 that he has deepened democracy in Nigeria by organising the most credible election in our history. He can also tell General Olusegun Obasanjo that he (Jonathan) has greater democratic credentials by being the first to pave the way for the most peaceful election that he contested and lost. He can add to the Ota big man that to me, ‘election is not a do-or-die affair, after all’.
The first Nigeria’s president with a doctorate degree can also tell even General Gowon that he is sure someone will nominate him for a Nobel Peace Prize for making the Nigerian voter to feel very important and influential for the first time. Now the Nigerian voter can look into the seed of time and nurture a glimmer of hope that his vote will count after all whenever he casts it!
Above all, the international community that has observed, seen and assessed the quality of this election will now respect Nigeria as the good image of the black man.
Indeed, Jonathan will leave Aso Villa on May 29 with his head high because he has done what Napoleon could not do! He has become a legend!
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MY FEET ARE TIRED
By Prof Wole Soyinka
Citizen of the world, Professor Wole Soyinka needs no introduction.
But now and again, one comes face-to-face with a work, which sends out shock waves and compels one to seek a re-write of the credentials of a master at work. This is one of such: My Feet Are Tired – a gripping, witty, provocative, extra-ordinary essay from the hand of a (well-known?) Master craftsman in literature. A Nobel laureate with an unrepentant, radical bent from his school days, which more than half-a-century has not been able to dilute.
Read this and you throw out the window the designation of this scheming compulsive writer as ‘a creative well of indeterminable depth and force’.
A well? No! My Feet Are Tired is an emission, not from a well, but from an active volcano! This is Kongi in his true colours. The Man Died who would not cry out: “My Feet Are Tired!” against those who would not let him march to his dream.
Depending on which side you are, put on your armour to read this: armour to march to conquer, or armour of futile protection against the march.
THE THINKER’S DIGEST PUBLISHER BELIEVES THIS IS ARGUABLY ONE OF THE GREATEST ARTICLES ANY MAN CAN WRITE. So we bring it to you courtesy THE GUARDIAN Newspaper.
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OVER THE YEARS, there have developed quite a few versions of what the lady actually said in the predictable, non-incident prone city bus on that historic day in Montgomery, Alabama. The differences are, however merely of detail, not of spirit. What is beyond dispute is the fact that one dismal, wintry day in December 1955, this lady, a black woman, entered a segregated bus in the deeply racist south of the United States, was ordered to move back where blacks belonged. She chose to stay put, however, stating simply that she was tired, that something in her had given way and that she was taking no more.
“I don’t think I have to move” is one of the more celebrated versions but, my favourite version of her actual words happens to be, “My feet are tired”
I have always been attracted by a certain metaphor of language wherein a mere part is made to do service for the entirety – we shall not bother with the technical term since, I am certain, that black lady was not acquainted with the word, and could not have given a damn what it meant.
She understood all about it, however, and she knew that it served the very purpose of her state of mind, soul and will; which were, to put it mildly, anything but tired. Tired of something, yes, and this was probably true of her feet, but that was nothing new. So what made this tiredness so different that it had to be voiced, and in such ordinary but weighty manner to this agent of an established order? Hers was a historically and politically conditioned mind, never mind whether or not she had had occasions to articulate its findings in such a public manner. Her statement, therefore, transcended the mere instigating weariness of her body. She spoke, in those few words, the embattled, combative weariness of her race. And the proof of this was that others heard, and responded.
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“My feet are tired!”…conjures up the history of embattled humanity; evokes, among others, the saga of the Israelites on their march from captivity to the Promised Land; the Hegira, or the flight of Prophet Mohammed from Mecca; Mao Tse Tung’s Long March across the vast stretch of China…all the many epics of wandering, uprooting, resettling and nation-building, forced marches from tyranny, the many faces of defeat, weariness and recovery.
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“My feet are tired!” If ever there existed a pittance of words that summarized a history, a summons and a direction, yet contradicted the literariness that might be attached to such a summation. I can think of no match for that utterance from the lips of the unknown seamstress of Montgomery. And it is thus easy to identify other reasons that make me especially fond of, and biased in favour of this version. It conjures up the history of embattled humanity; evokes, among others, the saga of the Israelites on their march from captivity to the Promised Land; the Hegira, or the flight of Prophet Mohammed from Mecca; Mao Tse Tung’s Long March across the vast stretch of China…all the many epics of wandering, uprooting, resettling and nation-building, forced marches from tyranny, the many faces of defeat, weariness and recovery.
“My feet are tired” is a banner for the recovery of our world because what it says is the exact opposite – my feet are tired, but my will is not. I am tired, sick, resentful and rebellious towards your domination, your inhumanity, your arrogance and insatiable will to power. I am tired of what is negative and hostile to the dignity of my existence. My feet have given way – yes, but only on the path of surrender, even of accommodation, and I deny them renewal along this route of attrition to my humanity. My feet are ready to move but only when faced in that opposing direction of self-redemption.
The driver of that bus could never of course have understood this language; neither would a Governor Wallace, nor indeed the KKK – Ku Klux Klan, nor the daughters of the American Revolution. And, in any case, it is never sufficient just to recognise the fact of a paradox in order to be able to quarry through to the hidden message and unearth its subversive summons. That takes a different kind of sensibility, a different level of commitment, one that recognizes instantly that the lady has spoken for all, has secured her toe-hold on the mountainous route on which her race is bound. Such a sensibility, of self-identifying commitment must also be imbued with an impeccable sense of historic timing, a sensibility that results in a reasoned impulsion in those who are thus affected to act with a will that reinforces her hold on that precarious perch, to take over the journey, never faltering until accompanied by multitudes, they glimpse and stand in the mists of that mountain-top, from where dreams have long filtered down into the receptive minds of all who, throughout human history, have worked for the liberation of their kind.
For is it not self-evident? Only those who have stood on that mountain top, even in their dreams, can recognize the paradoxical urge for the conquest of that pinnacle, embedded within the seeming plaint of “My feet are tired!” Only those who have already dedicated themselves to the opening up of that route, who have already taken one or several steps along that route would recognise that this was no mere incidental cry, but a voice of the solidarity of goals, echoing from the beckoning peaks of the dreamt-up-mountain.
A DREAM TO MATCH THE FEET
“I have a dream” was both harbinger of and benediction upon that voice from Montgomery that cried, “My feet are tired.” Two souls on the hillside to deliverance had called to each other and gestating history was ready to go into labour.
There will be found, always, more routes than one to the mountain-top, and they mostly, alas, complement one another. I say alas, because, passive resistance and non-violence possess qualities that most of humanity, as claimants to the refined domains of both the senses and intellect, would prefer to employ as arbiters for the contradictions and anomalies of society. The province of the mind, rather than the insensate territory of brute force, even of a defensive kind, endows humanity with a sense of superiority and control over the rest of nature. There is a creative satisfaction about the mere matching of ideas, the power of persuasion, of mental consternation, an inner serenity that comes with discovering a new notion that proves more rational than the last, one that orders the world of reality in a congruent fashion, with no untidy, obtrusive, irreconcilable elements. There is a deep sense of harmony that the mind enjoys even in an encounter of differing perspectives – as long as such propositions are anchored in an internal coherence of exposition. It is simple really: to remain within our specific history, one could say that even the most obdurate despot, armed with the arbitrary power of life and death, rarely resists that seductive satisfaction that comes with the attempt to justify the most indefensible acts. Not for anything have such terrors of society courted the company of philosophers, artists, scientists and other breeds of thinkers.
But do we not, occasionally encounter those in whom such temperaments do not appear to exist, not even in the slightest perceptible modicum? Those for whom the very manifestation of the faculty of thought in the oppressed represents a virus that must be extirpated before it infects the generality of its kind? We refer indeed, to individuals, classes, or collectivities – no matter how defined – within the society to whom the very proposition of an alternate view of the world is such a dangerous affront, that those who harbour the sheerest vestiges of such a notion must be hunted down, tortured and silenced even before they can exercise that faculty of mind that is the peaceful alternative to violent confrontations. This was the history of the Blackman in the Americas where the voice of rational protest, even of the pieties-tic kind was a guarantee of physical castration, mutations, tarring and feathering, public lynching and other refinements of bestial responses that the ‘master race’ could dream up.
In such circumstances, it is clear that the discourse of oppressor and oppressed is conducted, not merely on differing levels, or dialect of the same language, but in totally differing languages. One disputant is clearly deaf and dumb to the language of the other and any objective observer must be a saint, that rare breed, whose passage redeems the rest of us – to persist in the belief that he can eventually induce, within such a mind, the most rudimentary syntax of the language of rational content. The language of that other is the more accomplished however – for all who speak the language of ideas are indisputably multi-lingual in this sense: They understand their own language and they understand the language of the other – including the language of violence. It is only because they understand the language of violence, or violation, that they are capable of repudiating such language, that they are able to make a choice, to live their preference and sometimes to die for it.
Is it possible to contest the proposition that the language of a member of the Council for Racial Understanding is more morally and intellectually accomplished than that of the entire population of skin-heads now burning out foreigners in Germany and carving out the sign of the swastika on the cheeks of paraplegics? Such were the depths of human degradation that were plumbed in German, within these past few days. You must recall that the philosophy – if we may abuse the word of the Nazis was the ‘purification’ of the race, and that included the elimination of the handicapped, the sickly. The world must be peopled solely by those who were considered to epitomize the visual ideal of Aryan humanity, and this could not possibly include those who lacked the physical coordination that the fascist goose-step required.
Not for one moment do the contemporary inheritors of such notions recall – if ever they were aware of the fact – that the British scientist who is today considered nearest to the solution of the baffling origin of the universe is a virtual quadriplegic, a mere bundle of useless limbs and wasted body but, possessed of a mind that has traversed the outer limits of universal existence and comes closest to the ordering of its complexities in a comprehensible, unified whole. But the skin-heads saw the handicapped solely as representative of the impurity of race. She was ordered to shout Nazi slogans and, when she refused to do this, her cheek was defaced at the point of a knife with the sign of the swastika, and incidentally – by a female member of the gang.
Somehow, as I read that, barely two months ago, my mind leapt to those haunting black and white photographs taken in America’s Deep South. I was reminded also that Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” never fails to evoke in me those same images – the bodies of blackmen, sometimes even mere boys, hanging from boughs, placards dangling across their chests inscribed with the messages of the Ku Klux Klan. It takes an inhuman quality of courage and conviction to have come through such a history, yet adopt a strategy of confronting its reality with a banner that is inscribed “LOVE”, “PEACE” and “BROTHERHOOD”
“I have a dream” was both harbinger of, and benediction upon that voice from Montgomery that cried, “My feet are tired.” Two souls on the hillside to deliverance had called to each other and gestating history was ready to go into labour.
DISCOURSE VERSUS VIOLENCE
This is why, in view, we must always remember that this road towards the mountain top of resolution is a multiple one. The intellectual discipline that is dialogue often needs the co-option of other languages, especially when one discovers that past generations of one’s kind have been involved, not in a dialogue of even the most rudimentary kind, but in a babble of monologues. We are speaking here, in short, of exchanges that have never attained a meeting point, and will have none until one undertaken by the side that does not have access to the limited syntax of the other. In that instance – and hence the need for that lament ‘alas’ that I inserted earlier on – in such an instance, the sole, lowest common denominator of a syntax between oppressor and oppressed is, unfortunately, the syntax of violence.
Violence is sometimes a necessary prelude or counterpoint to the ennobling rationality of discourse. Let it always be remembered therefore that the course that was mapped and pursued by the NAACP, Martin Luther King, the sit-in tactics of the Student Non-violent Coordinating committees, and other well and lesser known contributory streams to the emancipation struggle, did succeed in attaining a critical tempo from the explosive interjections of the Bobb Seales, the Eldridge Cleaves, Rap Browness and the Black Panther movement in general – to go further, drenched also in self-sacrificial blood, also cased the final procession of a condemned race to the mountain-top , where the dream began to translate into reality. Even as we honour the courageous, almost inhumanly self-restraining path of Martin Luther King, let us remember also his comrades-in-arms, toiling up to propagate their more violently assertive routes that I do recall them but to remind ourselves that there do exist, alas, certain conditions of repression, certain breeds of oppressors, certain transgressors against our will to a human commonality, that remain willfully deaf, blind and impervious to word, sign and touch that we offer along the route that the noblest among us have chosen to tread. To open such ears, eyes and feeling, to overcome all their sensory deprivation, it is sometimes necessary to call to our aid, the other communication idiom that such human mutants appear to understand, exclusive of all others – the complementary language of violence. It was this partnership, sometimes kept at arms length by the pacifist pilgrims,that brought the racist order of the quasi-slaves society to an understanding of itself, and enabled the optimistic reach of Martin Luther King to unfold the secret dreams of all races within the plenitude of oneness.
“I have a dream…” revealed the guru. That dream was a world, and the call was for its repossession. Would that we all could seize our dreams, as he did, by the scruff of the neck, and shake them into the world of reality. Like Mahatma Gandhi also. And Desmond Tutu. Like Nelson Mandela, all who, within the same tradition, have taught us that the rarer the heights that dreams occupy, the wider the expanse of the plains of generosity, the broader the cloak of embrace, and more demanding the abandonment of bitterness to which the dreamer must simultaneously aspire.
I never did meet the late Martin Luther King, but then I also claim that I have met him and that I do know him. I had the great privilege, when I was bestowed the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, of dedicating my acceptance speech to Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King’s companion laureate of peace. I also had not met Nelson Mandela at the time, but we have since met several times, in various corners of the world; the last time being in Stockholm last December.
For me, that was a very special meeting. Not because we were meeting in Stockholm, but because I was meeting him, for the first time, in company of the representative of the pernicious order that had robbed Mandela of the maturest, richest part of his productive life. It was my first encounter with Mr. De Klerk, a man whom I had myself, reluctantly, come to define as one of the most morally, and indeed physically courageous men of our time. I was fascinated by them both as an unlikely duo, an unidentical political pair of Siamese twins bound together by history, but not supinely, not submissively, but by choice and will – through a process that will surely occupy historians, psychologists and political scientists for the next few decades – determined to reverse the course of that history and make it serve the mandate of their joint vision.
As I shook hands with de Klerk, I was strangely overcome with despondency, for this was what I found myself thinking: that I could not point to one single individual in my own society, among those who had been entrusted with the direction of this nation, or had forcefully taken upon themselves such a responsibility at gun point – I could not point to one individual among this nation’s rulers since independence, whom I would be prepared to match against the example of this Born-Again pillar of apartheid. Neither in moral nor physical courage, nor in integrity, commitment or sense of honour. If there had been such, if the reins of this nation had been permitted to fall into any such hands – and we do have them, we have known such contenders for power- this nation would not today be the subject of mockery, of commiseration, of condescension, bafflement and doleful predictions, both within and outside the African continent.
To put it crudely, the Nigerian nation would not today be the embodiment of a bad joke, the trigger for an unpleasant taste in the mouth, the Nigerian nation would not be the overgrown, retarded infant from whom the world expected so much but who has given so little, for whom the world predicted purposefulness but only exhibited its unpredictability, from whom the African world expected leadership but has remained content with subordinacy. We would not be such a basket case through which the milk and honey of natural gift and potential have dripped, endlessly, remorselessly.
WE ALSO HAVE A DREAM
“I have a dream” cried Martin Luther King. Yes, so did we, only ours, as warned by Langston Hughes, has dried up like a raisin in the sun. I would read out to you an extract from my very first novel, The Interpreters, but I dare not, since I would have to contend with the familiar complaint that it is too convoluted, the very opposite of Martin Luther King’s inspirational clarity. The passage I would have read, however, sums up the dream of a young man of twenty-five, an engineer, returning home with all the enthusiasms of a nation builder after a five-year absence, consumed by the one dream of transforming, with others of his age, the tract of land and community of people that he had left under colonial yoke, and to which he was now returning as a peopled space that had finally come fully into its own, that is, possessed of horizons without limit.
This character, Sekoni, was created as the voice of the dreams of my generation; the passage I have in mind was a summation of the dreams of that young engineer, who sought only to place his knowledge at the service of his community, extracting from wild nature the secret resources that would transform his environment.
No one today, I am certain, would dare repeat the accusation that it was my perversely pessimistic nature that made me have this kindred spirit killed off quite early in the narration. Three decades ago when that novel was written, a few of us already saw, with increasing despondency, what was to come. Since then, our generation had been wasted several times over.
We were modest in our dreams, nevertheless, and despite the companion shadow of our despondency; we have trudged towards their fulfillment for over thirty years, consistently, without flagging. And now?
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“I have a dream” cried Martin Luther King. Yes, so did we, only ours, as warned by Langston Hughes, has dried up like a raisin in the sun…our generation had been wasted several times over.
We were modest in our dreams, nevertheless, and despite the companion shadow of our despondency, we have trudged towards their fulfillment for over thirty years, consistently, without flagging. And now?
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Our feet are tired! In sporadic outburst, in measured, deliberate approaches, that warning has been spelt out, emblazoned across the skies, carved into the terrain of our daily habitation, yet it would appear that a self-repeating, self-perpetuating cabal of power-lusting men, spendthrift, incontinent, incompetent, unproductive, have failed to read or see this sky-written, earth-embossed message which, spelt out unambiguously, cast upon them to leave the stage and get back to the profession in which they were trained. All we have been able to export as example for this continent is the imitation syndrome, that which makes any unripened mutineer – to select the most banal instance in recent times, from neighbouring Sierra Leone – enables a trigger-happy nonentity, a juvenile delinquent hardly weaned from his mother’s teats, a mere protester against inadequate wages – like millions of Africa’s ill-remunerated hewers of wood and drawers of water – to seize the reins of government. But he is armed, he and his mutineers are armed, and that makes all the difference. No tears for the man thus ousted, we know his own antecedents, they are both cut from the same cloth, but the new mutineer finds himself in an empty presidential palace, decides that the vacated seat fits his bottom as well as any others. If Babangida or Abacha in Nigeria, he thinks, why not me in Sierra Leone?
Never mind that he had never heard of the notion of statecraft or that his notion of national economic planning is bound up in the size of his pay-packet – all that becomes irrelevant. He has the gun, has the right number of uniformed thugs on the spot, and he has the resolve to execute any contenders for power by the dozen, a propensity that he has been able to indulge with relish within one year in office, in a so-called trial that revolted even the most hardened of cynical observers – nothing else qualifies this adolescent to strut around as leader in a land filled with his betters. Nothing else is needed to fill his head with the egregious condescension that is the hallmark of a fathomless void!
Our feet are tired. But our heads remain wreathed in the clouds of attainable dreams. Let all the usurpers of our reality take warning and betake themselves from our midst…there is everywhere, just around the next turning, the old lady who will not budge, whose cry of tired feet has never failed to inspire us to emulate the example of Martin Luther King. There will be nothing that you can do to stem the tide of that moment when it comes, when, as one, we all respond…To her cry of “My feet are tired” will rise the chorus of a multitude, chanting, “I, too, have a dream” – and once again, we shall march!
BUT WE SHALL MARCH AGAIN!
Our feet are tired. Let all dictators on this continent understand that we shall not accept less than that goal of total liberation for which our kin in the diaspora have fought and are still contending. And that the likes of Martin Luther King are rare, that the doctrine of non-violence is an ideal to which many aspire but cannot always accede. Dominance by one class – be such dominance understood through the colour of skin, of region or religion, or the cut of cloth, will always be resented and resisted. Let the Army in this nation, Nigeria, understand without further ambiguity that rulership can only be by consent, and that the aberration of these past decades, tolerated in this country at least, not out of supineness, but out of a wishful faith in an over reiterated ‘word of honour’ in pledges that are now discredited, must be terminated forthwith, without the self-conferment of superior knowledge, ability or skills beyond the ones for which all other groups like you, the military, have been trained.
Let me yet again demolish one emotional blackmail by which this same class, the military, sometimes seeks to hold the rest of the community in thrall. You tend to claim sometimes that, as a class, you make a unique sacrifice and bear a unique burden, this being because your profession compels you to lay down your lives for our nation. I must request those of you who persist in this warped thinking to look at the casualties of warfare going on around us all over the globe-it is the civilians that bear the brunt of maiming, dis-figuration, and death! Starvation comes to us without reprieve; rape of our womanhood is our daily portion, debasement of our humanity the guaranteed quality of life. Indeed, the highest price is paid by those who have neither the training nor the means of their defence; the reality of this horror is manifested around us daily.
On January, each year, the nation remembers, as it should, the fallen. We condole with the Army for its losses, its self-sacrifice on behalf of the nation. The army lays wreaths at cenotaphs, honours the memory of the symbolic Unknown Soldier. It is just that we celebrate with our fighting men and women what the entire world has designated Remembrance Day. When however, is there ever found a tomb of the Unknown Civilian? Oh, we are not speaking here of the mass graves of the nameless, which are commonplace. But where is there a monument of remembrance to the arbitrary victim? In Somalia? In Yugoslavia? In the USSR of Joseph Stalin? In Sudan? In Ireland? Or in Nigeria which not only lost millions of innocent civilians in a civil war but whose citizens have paid again and again the ultimate sacrifice for insisting that they are human beings, and will not be driven and beaten like goats and sheep. Where is the tomb of the Unknown Victim – call the ‘Unknown Ci-Vic’ for Unknown Civilian Victim – from the thousands who have been killed in the petrol riots, in the moral upsurges that follows the revelation of one scandal after the other, in our nearly thirty years of aberrant military dictatorship? Every year, we honour our murderers, but do they even deign to honour their victims? Do they even acknowledge that they exact the ultimate price from our existence in return for nothing? Nothing but daily humiliation, insecurity, and impoverishment.
We, too, need our Remembrance Day, but more crucial still, we prefer to have nothing more to remember, nothing that is, of all we have undergone, these three decades of our so-called Independence, Nigerians from every walk of life must bear this charge in mind: if we cannot remember and condole with the Army this time next year as equals within this national comity, we should resolve to contest their involvement of us, their perennial victims, in honouring their dead. Every home should set up its own shrine to the Unknown Civilian, let each and everyone of us rededicate himself, herself and any children under our formative care, to the cause of which the victim has fallen.
Our feet are tired. But our heads remain wreathed in the clouds of attainable dreams. Let all the usurpers of our reality take warning and betake themselves from our midst. There is no special aura that marks your passage, only the emissions of your self-delusion. Your uniforms are no more hallowed than the uniform of the Montgomery bus driver, the pitiable one who thought that the black lady’s destination was the next bus station, or the one after, or even the terminus of the bus companion. How was he to know that this destination was not one that he had ever seen on the route map, nor one that he would recognize if he ever came upon it?
Do remember however that time and time again, this society has proved that it is not so impoverished that it lacks for Martin Luther King. Despite the setback, despite your treacheries against the will of our people, despite your arrogance and contempt for their unending sacrifices, there is everywhere, just around the next turning, the old lady who will not budge, whose cry of tired feet has never failed to inspire us to emulate the example of Martin Luther King. There will be nothing that you can do to stem the tide of that moment when it comes, when, as one, we all respond to that cry of a lonely voice in the conveyance whose controls you insist again and again on usurping.
To her cry of “My feet are tired” will rise the chorus of a multitude, chanting, “I, too, have a dream” – and once again, we shall march!
Culled from The Guardian, Sunday 6th. March, 1994; page A9.
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SHORT; SHARP; SERIOUS
- SHOUT FROM HEAVEN?
My wife and I have taught our children to maintain minimum noise levels in the home, and to avoid as much as possible shouting at each other. No doubt, they expect us parents to obey the rule too. Whenever any of us speaks to any of them with a rather raised voice, the child is agitated and often complains in their unique grammar: Mummy or Daddy is “shouting for me!”
We were at home one rainy Saturday when our second child dropped Mummy’s mobile phone which drew a sharp reproach from her. The child recoiled and sought consolation in my arms. “Daddy, mummy is shouting for me!”
“Sorry my dear” I pacified him.
Just then, there was a particularly loud rumble of thunder from the skies. The child looked sharply at his mummy, then back at me and smiled.
Surprised at his sudden relief I stared back at him with raised eyebrows.
“Why are you smiling?” I asked.
“God is shouting for Mummy” he replied.
- Contributed By THE SAINT