•Ike Ekweremadu and Nnamdi Kanu
The fictional monster created by Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel – Frankenstein – continues to enjoy a similitude in the subsisting human catharsis always released to address existential questions birthed through the intercourse of politics, economics, socialisation, religion and culture in Nigeria.
Maladministration and inactions by leadership concerning critical day-to-day issues of life spawn diverse responses. The progressive mismanagement of public finance, with the ramifications of pervasive poverty, the widening gap between the rich and the poor largely accentuated by the liquidation of the middle class and falling standard of living, represents the elephant in the room.
The situation supra has produced a social ferment that continues to afflict us as a people. Given our massive natural resources, it is paradoxical that Nigeria is at a crossroads, unable to deploy her petro-dollars to define herself in the comity of prosperous and developed nations of the world. The world is, indeed, aghast that Nigeria has been unable to transform into a global economic force with the abundance of crude oil under her soil.
The sad narrative has been that of a rich nation of a poor people. The validation of a poverty-stricken people whose land has recently become the global poverty capital lies in the chilling facts and statistics that the wealth of Nigeria has been privatised by a cartel that continues to hold her by the jugular. It is the small tribe of these unconscionable leaders and their protégés that continue to corner the nation’s collective patrimony in furtherance of prebendal politics.
Our financial resources are wantonly mismanaged and wickedly diverted into private pockets. The privileged haves continue to assail the haves not with the vulgarity of ill-gotten wealth, thus provoking a sense of vengeance in some who are easily undercut and resort inevitably to self-help. They become denatured and manifest in bizarre ways in order to respond to existential issues of survival, longing and belonging in a society where Social Darwinism becomes the essential philosophy.
Such individuals who cannot afford, any longer, to harbor hope of a better life or a guaranteed future in their relative socio-economic and political conditions switch over to the extremely opposite side of “good”, largely untamed in the contemplation, consideration and manifestation of the bestial and revolting tendencies that inexorably become our collective pains. Remember Dr. Ishola Oyenusi, that gung-ho and first celebrity armed robber that once terrorized Lagos and its surrounding states?
Oyenusi did not create himself. He was created by the society and turned out to become the society’s macabre sense of vengeance. Before he came to his terminus, he had ravaged the society in his sanguinary exploits and when he was to be executed, more than 30,000 Nigerians reportedly gathered around the execution venue. That spectacle-the shaming of Oyenusi-did not upend the predisposition by others to the absurdity of the Oyenusi public execution. Right after his execution, his second-in-command, Isiaka Busari, better known as Mighty Joe, took over and became the de facto king of the underworld.
Oyenusi’s exploits became the stuff for Nollywood producers who have done well by raking in multi-million naira in box-office from films that either captured or recreated his dare devilry. The same society created Mighty Joe. It created Shina Rambo, a former armed robber that terrorised Southwest Nigeria in the 1990s. The society created Lawrence Nomanyagbon Anini who terrorised Benin City in the 1980s along with his friend Monday Osunbor who were both captured and executed for their crimes.
Those were a few examples of the criminal elements that the comparative Nigeria’s economic conditions created. What of the few that have been created by a combination of desperate politics and manipulative religious bigotry? Remember Mohammed Yusuf, the leader of Boko Haram that was killed in 2009 before the mythical Abubakar Shekau assumed the leadership role? The story is that the desperate politics of entrenchment of vested interests and the lack of fidelity to original promises made in the conclave of Borno State birthed the Boko Haram insurgency.
A motley group of young men armed by some desperate politicians, became monsters and unleashed their monstrosity on the nation for settlement of political scores, which action they later, out of the political exigency of the time, refocused and rechristened as a battle against western education. It was such a nebulous philosophy, but thousands had since died in their terrorist activities of bombing places of worship and public buildings, among others. They have since been locked in a supremacy battle by the Nigerian troops for annexation of Nigerian territories. The Nigerian society created these monsters.
Remember Mohammed Marwa who died in 1980? Nicknamed Maitatsine, he was a controversial preacher in Nigeria whose nickname means “the one who damns”. He was reputed for his curse-laden speeches against the Nigerian state. His followers were Yan Tatsine who continued to riot into the early 1980s despite that their leader had died in 1980. According to a report, the Boko Haram is viewed as an extension of the Maitatsine group.
Before Boko Haram were the Niger Delta militants. Unlike the criminals in the south and Boko Haram terrorists, they were non-sanguinary. But what they did by blowing up pipelines and draining the nation of her economic lifeline was killing Nigeria and Nigerians by the installments in the absence of the political will to diversify the economic base. The late President Umaru Yar’Adua produced the solution to the conflagration in the Niger Delta through the instrumentality of the Amnesty Progamme for the militants. The society created the militants and their agitations and the society has pacified and mitigated their destructive tendencies.
The leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), an Indian- trained lawyer, Ralph Uwazuruike, was created by the society. Piqued by the structural imbalance in the Nigerian federation, the movement that is associated with Igbo nationalism, agitated for the recreation of an independent state of Biafra (a throwback to Odumegwu Ojukwu-motivated Nigeria-Biafra civil war). Uwazuruike said MASSOB was a peaceful group and had advertised a 25-stage plan to achieve its goal peacefully. Recall that Uwazuruike had been arrested on several occasions and charged with treason. The intervention by Igbo leaders, coupled with Uwazuruike’s sense of appreciation that there are peaceful ways this goal could be achieved had since moderated his agitation.
But the enfant terrible, Nnamdi Kanu, who promotes the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB) continues to dance to the rhythm of his soul in complete dissonance with the peaceful strategy by Ndigbo for the actualization of their overarching objective of equity and equality in the reconstruction and recalibration of Nigeria’s federal structure. It is not clear if he is a creation of this society, especially given his recent directive that his members should physically assault former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekwermadu in Nuremberg, Germany, at an Igbo annual Yam festival. He has placed prize-money on some Igbo leaders who dare to travel outside the country on official assignments.
His self-acclamation as a Judaist and protégé of the State of Israel question both his patriotism to Nigeria and ethnic nationalism. That he could issue a “fatwa” on Ekweremadu, who alongside Eyinnaya Abaribe, was largely instrumental to his bail, was indicative of his disruptive tendencies and the delusion of grandeur that propels him to approximate himself as the new drum major of Igbo ethnic nationalism. But then, until IPoB was rightly or wrongly proscribed and categorised as a terrorist group, many Igbo leaders had tacitly endorsed Kanu’s style since it unsettled the powers-that-be in Abuja. Little did they know that they were encouraging a disruptive monster.
The lesson for us all: stop creating conditions that produce monsters; stop encouraging monsters in furtherance of vested interests; the federal government should be responsive to national concerns and pockets of agitations before they snowball into conflagrations; it should act proactively and even reactively to emplace measures that countervail the predilection for disruptive agitations. Even where our society has not created a monster, it behoves government to deal with or tame it in the overall interest of the nation.
•Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via email@example.com