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By Olakunle Abimbola


A crucible, fired by too many wrongs from the past, is kilning the country.  In that searing, scalding oven, even elders are wont to talk rot.

That recalls The Crucible, that 1953 classic, by famed American playwright, Arthur Miller.  Set in 17th century Salem, in the Massachusetts Bay colony, with its witch hunts, the play echoes the Joseph McCarthy US communist purges (1950-1954).

The Crucible’s major themes include reputation, hysteria, power and authority, guilt, portrayal of women, deception, goodness and judgment.  But add amnesia, were The Crucible to be set in contemporary Nigeria!

Robert Clarke, SAN, 82, appeared on Channels TV and told the Federal Government  to hand over to the military — to “restructure” the country; and stave off Nigeria’s collapse in six months: an Armageddon he swore to, by the grave of his doting father!  Hysteria, the emotive handmaiden of treason?

But deja vu — have we not seen such before?

In January 1966, even after Nigeria’s first-ever military coup had all but failed, Nwafor Orizu, then acting president, announced a “voluntary” transfer of power to the military.

On 17 January 1966, the no-less-tragic Major-Gen. Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, “accepted” Orizu’s “invitation”; thus unleashing the plague of military rule.

Might Nigerian history have dramatically changed, had Dr. Orizu summoned the most senior cabinet minister, to act as Prime Minister, and shut out the military, given that  Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was still missing?

Nobody knows for sure, if we were not to commit the fallacy of getting wise after the fact.  For one, though, there was uproar over the 1965 general elections, casting a huge legitimacy pall on the Balewa government.

For another, the Western Region, whose denizens more or less strutted the media, had tried and convicted the Balewa government — not without cause — of the anarchy in the “wild, wild West”; and were puritanically baying for blood.

Still, Orizu’s bad judgment provided the first grist, for the latter-day dubbing of that putsch as an “Ibo coup” — and the cascade of tragedies that followed, cresting with the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970).

Then, phases of tragic military rule, in painful slow motion: Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi (and regimental fumblers); Yakubu Gowon (age of innocence); Murtala-Obasanjo (emotive purges that killed the civil service); Muhammadu Buhari (very first taste of harsh military rule); Ibrahim Babangida (evil genius of SAP and archangel of socio-economic collapse); Sani Abacha (ruthless graft machine); and Abdulsalami Abubakar (snapped the power-poisoned military from their misery).

Chief Clarke was 27 in January 1966, when Dr. Orizu committed that “original sin”.  But here, he is pushing an encore, on Channels, some 55 years later!  Culpable amnesia?

Still, Chief Clarke is only a fitting metaphor for unbridled but fashionable unreason, which nevertheless elicits thunderous cheers, from the ultimate putative victims!

Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s declaration of Biafra, in May 1967, elicited a wild flourish, as some Utopia long-delayed.  Yet, that has bred nothing but generational bitterness, a  poisoned collective psyche, and perpetual gnashing of teeth, as eternal victims!

You could spot a similar recklessness, among the uppity Yoruba, in the rash ranks of the Oodua Republic lobby: that fashionable folly of swearing — at the grave of your father! — that frothing emotion and brainless zest are indeed rigorous strategy!

Whoever knows what time and cold ash of reason would bring these dreamers?  Even if Yor-Exit succeeds: a Yoruba version of South Sudan perhaps, where the glorious revolution consumes own children, with old whipping boy, Nigeria, out of reach?

Still wild carping, in all its glorious hysteria, comes with the territory, in a season of high stress.  At the turn of New Year 2021, Nigeria’s spiritual futurologists came with a near-uninanimous vision of “coup” — the holy spite, from their sacred souls!

The fiery Father Matthew Kukah, Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto, also hinted at that grisly business, in his patriotic railing against the present order.

But his rabble of excitable followers, co-questers for the quick fix, always swear: Kukah hates the regime less; he only loves Nigeria more — not unlike Shakespeare’s Brutus that loved Rome more than he hated Caesar.  So, why not an 82-year-old SAN canvassing a military coup, bang on public TV?

Still, banditry, insurgency and kidnapping are a whiplash from the past: viciously hitting back are those disinherited and dispossessed, by past heinous policies and humongous greed — consolidated, rather than dissipated, by the Olusegun Obasanjo-led civil order, after eons of ruinous military rule.

Of course, President Muhammadu Buhari has own faults.  For one, the much diffused insecurity crisis is a near-irremovable stain on his tenure, like Lady Macbeth’s hands, stained with Banquo’s blood.   Besides, Buhari came highly recommend to smash the rampart insecurity that shooed away Goodluck Jonathan.

But aside from that regime culpability, neither helped by the Buhari penchant to let things fester before acting nor his coolness towards re-federalization, the president would appear not unlike Eman, the scapegoat in Wole Soyinka’s tragic play, The Strong Breed — who sacrificed all, for his ungrateful, unfeeling, insensitive fellow villagers.

Buhari it is, who has called the bluff of the Nigerian thieving elite, without anyone pinning, on him, any venality of his own.  That can’t be said of he, of the infamous Presidential Library, built with controversial “donations”!

Buhari it is, whose anti-sleaze war, with the Ludo-playing judiciary hardly permitting, has tried to call to account, the greedy elite, whose unconscionable graft bred the current plague of banditry and allied insecurity.

Buhari it is, though with resources whittled down three-fold from the Obasanjo-Jonathan era, has launched the most ambitious infrastructure revamp, in roads, bridges and rail, since 1999.  But for his pains, it’s ceaseless torrent of insults, from the same folks whose future he’s trying to secure!

The media that should put things in proper perspectives appears well and truly beyond redemption.  But the media’s problem would appear structural, honed from past worst practices, of ceaseless and glorious carping.

If you doubt, just content-analyze past security crises — under Obasanjo; under Umaru Yar’Adua; under Jonathan.  You’ll find a media bristling and yakking hysteria in all seasons, sans any institutional memory!  Any wonder then, Channels would proudly thrust, on its viewers, an 82-year-old SAN, virtually calling for a coup — after all the military woes our learned silk had lived through?

The president and his (wo)men should double down on the present challenges.  However it plays out, Buhari would need no gaming machine, masquerading as a Presidential Library, to remind the people of his tenure.

His infrastructure uptick, in the worst of seasons, his radical push for food security and his campaign for integrity and productive work ethos, would loom large enough — as eternal testimony against the present hysteria to muddy the waters.

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