After I read Dele Momodu’s Open Letter to the Vice President and Reuben Abati’s Nigeria 2019 : Notes From the Field, this morning, I knew I was not travelling alone on this endless dead – end, in ruminations about the fate of my country. I had mentioned to a friend on election day back in my village, Bunyia Irruan in Boki, Cross River State that in the next 10 years it will be too dangerous to be a politician. It is a grim truth I have come to terms with based on the stark realities of the nation today.
In the old days, we agreed as a community, on which political party we were going to support in each election, the day before the elections. The arguments were usually led by leaders of the opposing parties from the area. In the end a decision was taken and agreed to by almost everyone. On election day therefore, everyone knew which party they were going to vote for. And it was almost natural that after voting all roads led to the Leaders home where plantain porridge with goat meat was being cooked by the womenfolk. Everybody ate their belly – fulls and not a few kegs of palmwine and cartons of beer were quaffed till late into the night.
Whereas the eve of election day meetings aggregated the interest of the community and which party best represented those aspirations, the after election convivialities presented the opportunity for requests that were more personal in form and nature. And matters like burial expenses, farm inputs, assistance for marriage or naming ceremonies were often made at these occasions. Victory was usually communal and collective in the same way that the community felt and acted like one. All that is gone now. The 2019 general elections have signposted the death of innocence and heralded the beginning of election as warfare.
In my area, the youths became a political party of their own. Their aim was not to win elections for themselves or for anybody. Their aim was to win the cash by all means necessary. And they are very many, these youths. Hordes of them, many of them educated. Many of them not educated. All of them high on something. Alcohol, marijuana, tramadol, you name it. They wore jeans trousers and funky tops, with a little bag on their bossom, held together by a sling that dropped from their necks through their armpits. The side bag usually had a bulge, and it was up to you to guess if there was a pistol in there or not. It wasn’t however the most pleasant wager to make. And while the inevitable negotiations last, it was also inevitable that one had his left eye constantly focused on the bulge on the little bag.
They introduced themselves as “the boys”, even though one had known most of them all their lives. “The boys ” are angry about being neglected by the system and all they are asking for is “settlement “. That is why they have snatched the election materials in all the polling units. Ofcourse the police orderly posted to the polling unit was standing there whilst the materials were being carted away. He is clearly more petrified than you. And his mind is frankly more on the honorarium the different party leaders will squeeze into his pocket on the sly. Negotiations will then ensue between the party leaders and the boys. In the end money changed hands, the boys returned the materials, voting continued, except for another little matter of cash before voting. The cartons of soap, maggi, indomie and bags of salt and rice had been accepted. Those ones are safely in their kitchens. The old men and women. The young men and girls. Everybody is asking you to give them money (cash money), before they proceeded to vote. You have very little left after rescuing the election materials with plenty of money. The die is cast! Welcome to the general elections of 2019. Welcome to the reality of Nigeria.
The governing APC lit the fire, the Vice President bore the torch, and now the conflagration is burning down the country. From Trader Money on the eve of the general elections to Tinubu billions, all shown on national television networks. The people watched and copied. The entire national moral fabric destroyed in one fell swoop by the desperation of an inept and clueless gang of power mongers for the sake of power, money, and ethnic supremacy. All the gains of education and civilization sacrificed on the altar of vanity. Even INEC and the Military could not be spared the haemorrhage. The shame of a country . You wonder why the Vice President endured the agony of school and legal education only to end up as a byword, mixed up in this grime and putrifaction. The President threatened that election materials snatchers would be shot. The deputy governor of Kano did so, was arrested and is now released. Matter closed. The bandits are having a field day while the educated are crafting fitting theories to explain the travesties. I’m sure that even now, Sagae, Keyamu and Oshiomole have answers for every question.
The young ones are seeing us, and are learning. The youths now know that the route to greatness is not through education or hardwork. That was then. They know that the key to success is through might. The short answer is through violence. So they join cult groups at teen, while those who missed “the opportunity ” in school now join at mid life. You have to belong. You have to carry the threat of violence . Otherwise you are going nowhere in politics. Academic excellence amounts to nothing. All that one needs today is money and the capacity for violence. This is the new Nigeria. This is the new reality. The youths had masters who bought guns for them. They have now dispensed with the masters, but have kept the guns. They are their own masters now, controlled by their hunger for food, alcohol and drugs. A revolution is brewing almost imperceptibly so across the country. A revolution of the youths is on its way. It will consume all of us in its apocalypse. The regret is that it will not be driven by ideology. No, the revolution will be driven by joblessness, ignorance, hunger, alcohol and drugs. And this reality is almost upon us.
In the next ten years, you could hold up a bank, steal a heap of Jack and run for President. Never mind about certificates or competence. With good money, arms and ammunition, you are halfway home. These youths will accept money and arms, and promptly murder their parents. Those who still cherish education, civility pedigree and experience, should go find a job away from politics. Now my eyes too have opened, having seen enough to lead me to irrevocable despair. Now I believe Chinua Acebes’ tale in “There Was a Country” and Karl Maier’s apocalyptic prognosis about the future of Nigeria in his book “This House Has Fallen.” It has indeed fallen and the rubble are strewn all about us.