By Fr. Emmanuel Ojeifo*
After watching video clips on YouTube, of the remarkable descent into savagery that took place on Tuesday, 9th July 2013, at the Rivers State House of Assembly (RSHA), I could not help but weep bitterly for Nigeria. Clearly, what happened in RSHA is a sad return to the barbaric age of the Hobbesian State where the rule of men was the rule of law.
If that show of shame were to happen in any of the civilised parliaments in the world, the parliamentarians involved would have immediately resigned. If not, the electorate would have recalled them. But not in Nigeria! Nigeria is a den of robbers where doing the wrong thing catapults you to the halls of fame!
Little wonder, Matthew Hassan Kukah did not mince words in his 2011 book, Witness to Justice where he said: “Nigerians, despite the complexity of their society, remain a people who ask for very little despite the much they give or take from the excesses of those who lead them… The citizens of Nigeria have shown incredible resilience to the point of more or less being accessories in their own collective oppression with those who continue to exploit their seeming equanimity and fatalism.” As things stand now, nothing will happen. Those same shameless legislators will be re-(s)elected in 2015! Just wait and see!
That singular event reminds me of a soul-stirring remark made by the Austrian Jewish neurologist and Nazi survivor, Viktor Frankl, in his 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning. He said: “Certain things must cause you to lose your reason or you have no reason at all.” Indeed, the sad event that took place in RHSA is one of those things that must cause every Nigerian with a vestige of moral and civil sanity to lose his or her reason, or that person has no reason at all.
As I watched the clips, I kept asking myself: Are these the calibre of men, so called Distinguished Members of the House of Assembly, whom we have invested with the sacred responsibility of making laws for us? How did our collective will allow us to hand over legislative powers to brigands without realising it? How did a State that has produced some of the most outstanding, astute and cerebral public servants in the history of Nigeria allow itself to be waylaid by an infamous gang of lawbreakers parading themselves as lawmakers?
If you are reading this, you know the jerk. The truth of the matter is that political rascality and executive thuggery have been subsidized in Nigeria. They are now free-of-charge. It costs you nothing to be stupid or mediocre. If anything, it makes you an instant celebrity! That is Nigeria for you! When Bar-Siman-Tov Ittai, the learned Israeli Doctor of Law at Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv, asked this question “Can lawmakers be trusted to police themselves?” in his scholarly article “Lawmakers as Lawbreakers,” he obviously would have had in mind a place like Nigeria where lawlessness has become the fundamental directive principle of state policy. It is a self-evident truth that what took place in RSHA can comfortably repeat itself in all 36 legislative houses in our country, including the federal legislature, with legislators seeing nothing wrong with it. It has happened in the past. It is still happening; and it will continue to happen, until we collectively decide as a people to put a full stop to such odium and ridicule through the ballot box.
What is so saddening in the entire show of shame, which I cannot help but ponder on is: What will the men who battered one another in full glare of public cameras say to their children when they get home on the fateful day? It may not be immediately manifest, but the collateral effect of such bad example is that we are grooming a new generation of ‘rebellious’ young people who are gradually losing respect and trust for today’s adult generation.
Many young people no longer see their parents and elders as models of emulation and so they no longer regard parental authority with the esteem that children gave to parental upbringing in previous generations. When the younger generation of today looks at the adults of today who parade themselves as leaders and see how their behaviours grossly fall short of what they say they are, these young people simply shrug their shoulders in disbelief and walk away.
But there comes a time when these resilient young people can no longer fold their arms and accommodate the failures of the adult generation, at that time they will rise up and rightfully take what belongs to them. That is how revolutions begin. In recent times we have seen it happen in Tunisia. We have seen it in Morocco. It has happened in Libya and Syria. It is still happening in Egypt. If we fail to learn our lessons, it will most certainly happen in Nigeria, if not now then later; if not instituted by man, then by the hands of omnipotence.
Nigerian youth, like young people elsewhere, are an extremely resilient people. They have a greater capacity to bear with nonsense, but when they say: “No! We can no longer take this shit!” they will stop at nothing until they bring down the government. After 42 unbroken years of terror in Libya, it took less than a month for Muammar Gadhafi to be brought down.
It took only 18 days of protest for the Egyptians gathered at Tahrir Square to bring down Hosni Mubarak’s government that lasted 30 years. Indeed, as Thomas Jefferson’s aide who served as American ambassador to France from 1785 to 1789 and witnessed the deluge of bloodshed that greeted the French Revolution said in Dickens’ masterly novel, A Tale of Two Cities: “No government that asserts its power in the form of public exhibition can guarantee control of its audience’s reaction.”
Frankly speaking, the highly regrettable drama that took place in RHSA on Tuesday has cast a dark shadow on all that we call “democracy” in our land. Is it not really shameful that after 14 years of democratic experiment all we can show for it, as a nation is banality and mediocrity magnified? Without doubt, the PDP is at the heart of it all. Japheth Omojuwa said it in his article in The Punch of Wednesday, July 10, 2013: “The PDP has failed Nigeria! It failed us yesterday, it is failing as we speak and it has borrowed enough money to get the future of our children started on the path of failure… Fourteen years is enough and by 2015 it’d indeed be 16 years of brigandage, of blood and bullets, of waste and economic haemorrhage. Sixteen years of dilapidated infrastructure, of hospitals without drugs, of schools without students, of universities without lecturers. It would be 16 years of the ugliest display of nonsense since that word came into existence in 1999.”
Fellow Nigerians, true democracy can only be sustained and improved upon when the electoral process is such that the people are able to choose their leaders who will, in turn, further nurture the democratic ethos. If we are going to sound a death knell to the brazen display of political rascality and legislative brigandage as was witnessed in RSHA, we must go through the ballot box in 2015 where we can confidently say, ‘Good riddance to bad rubbish!’ Until then, if you are one of those involved in that bazaar of shame, and you are reading this, say to yourself: “Shame to me!”
Fr. Ojeifo is a priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja and personal secretary to the Cardinal.
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.