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Friday, 03 February 2023 01:39

[OPINION] Again, Potpouri - Abdu Rafiu

Many things are taking place in the land at the same time. Much as one will not wish to be sucked into the murky waters of our politics in the land, one can’t but follow developments with keen interest. No one who is seeking some measure of propriety can’t but be seriously unsettled seeing our gladiators hurling insults at one another and ill-will against themselves. Indeed, wholesomeness is the word, but it is a pipe dream seeking such in politics, especially in our clime. And you ask yourself, why would you let go completely in the quest for power and influence? And hangers-on as well as the attack dogs are waiting in the wings to unleash their own missiles—lack of polish, disinformation and distorted image of the targeted imaginary adversary. And see the irony and the farce, at the end of the day, whoever wins becomes an Excellency! There will be clapping and dancing. And all the apparatchik of state is put at his disposal. Senior functionaries of state salute His Excellency; they are at his beck and call. Consider this report, for example:

“A Federal High Court in Kano has granted an order for the investigation, arrest, prosecution of Mr. X (name and party withheld). The party stalwart is accused of threat to life, disruption of peace and hate speeches in a suit filed by Mr. Y.

“The Kano indigene, through his counsel, (Name withheld), told the court that Mr. X. in a phone call, insinuated that he would kill him (sai na batar da kai). In the Certified True Copy seen by Daily Post, Justice S.A. Amobeda adjourned the case for 16th of February to monitor compliance. The New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, in Kano has described the ruling as ‘a milestone achievement’ of democracy.”

Here is another, captioned ‘Hoodlums bomb INEC office, police station in Anambra,’ it reads: “A 16-year-old boy was on Wednesday (that is, yesterday) killed while a 15-year-old girl sustained gunshot injury in a bomb attack at Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC), and a police station in Ojoto and Nnobi in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State.” The report says that the hoodlums came in the early hours of the day in four vehicles, and with IEDs, petrol bombs and other kinds of explosives.”

With these trends, the situation promising to heighten tension and constitute a grave threat to security is going to get worse. Electioneering campaigns one has watched in some other lands are a sharp contrast to what obtains here in Nigeria. The candidates in those lands speak to their programmes laced with a great deal of humour, jokes and anecdotes. The aspect of the political jostling you find more interesting is when candidates are vying for local council elections. A candidate seeking re-election comes to the house clutching a copy of his manifesto and a sheet of paper. He reels out promises he made in the last campaign and asks that you verify the account of his stewardship he is presenting; he further asks you what you want done in the next dispensation for which he is asking your vote. You feel honoured that a candidate comes to your house and you have a conversation together and his pledge.

A former colleague of mine, Owei Lakemfa, writing from Geneva in his column in THENEWSGURU online newspaper on Tuesday, says as follows: “In Geneva, Switzerland, an acquaintance once apologized that he was some minutes late for our appointment because he went to vote that morning. Everywhere and everything appeared normal. There was no indication of voting going on. I reflected that back home, elections even at state level are emergencies in which curfew is imposed, movement restricted and the army, police, intelligence and other security services turned out on the streets.

“In November, 2021, I was an observer at the elections in Venezuela. It was a Sunday because the Venezuelans would not allow a disruption of their normal activities, including on Saturdays when a lot of trading goes on. Sundays are their rest days so they can afford an hour or two. A Catholic country, I watched people returning from church with their children and making a detour to the polling station. Back home in Nigeria, it would be unwise for people to carry their children to the polling station. First, voting can be disrupted and violence breaks up. Secondly is the endless queue.”

Owei Lakemfa goes on: “Nigerian voters were by last elections forced to go to the poll station twice in a day for the same election; first to be accredited and later to cast their ballot. All the noise of ‘modern’ electoral system such as being issued temporary and Permanent Voter’s card, PVC, the so-called revolutions of using card readers, and the newest contraption called the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, which is supposed to read PVCs, and authenticate a voter’s print, are eliminated in Venezuela’s hotly contested elections. The very cheap, fast and non-controversial voting system in Venezuela simply requires the voter to come to the polling station with his national identity card we call NIN. This is checked against the electronic national register. The voter is then given a sheet which he goes to a covered table to tick and drop in a carton, yes, packet carton in the centre of the room, and off he goes. The number of persons who show up with their identity cards and the votes must tally. Within four hours, the election results nationwide were out. I use the example of Venezuela because like Nigeria, it is a Third world country and due to unilateral American-imposed sanctions, it is poorer than Nigeria. So, voting is not rocket science.”

I have quoted Owei Lakemfa extensively so we can ask ourselves: Why are we so markedly different? Of course, my colleague tries to explain why we are. He says our elections are contentious because to hold an elective office is to hold what amounts to holding the key to the treasury, Hangers-on, all manner of people line up to be beneficiaries. He says ours is a democracy in which the President and the governor are “in god-like positions” and “legislators earn insane allowances.” There are other transgressions such as padding of budgets and awarding contracts they sometimes stand in the end, with friends and relations to be covert beneficiaries.

I agree with him and like to add without mincing words that it is more and far deeper than these. They are manifestations of what is deeper in our society. The world is divided between idealists and materialists. The idealists have deeper and more expansive inner life. The materialists are only able to acknowledge coarse matter bound to earthly space and time. They are after fame, power and influence, seeing material pursuits as the ultimate, as the end in itself and the only things of value; hardly service. Rich and expansive inner life manifests in radiance, love and polish, refinement and pursuit of happiness for the greatest number of people. The idealists are driven by an acute sense of service with absolute disregard to personal gains. The idealists stand apart from the crowd in consequence of certain degree of inner maturity which proves itself in polish and refinement, and proclivity to aligning with the mechanism that governs life in recognition of his smallness, and to do good. We will be on the path to achieving this only when we seek enlightenment offered in higher knowledge.

This brings me to a call by a lady in South Africa. The lady, while saluting the Region’s heroes past who fought for the liberation of the land from White minority rule, is calling for the return of the Whites in the saddle in her country. She laments the state of the nation, now infested with crimes and criminality. Nothing is working, she argues. There is constant power outage; there is failure in water supply; everything, she alleges, is going down. She says life was better under the Whites.

There was a strong and almost unassailable argument and the attendant struggle for the dismantling of apartheid, not only because it was practised on African soil and in a country that belonged to the Blacks but also because of assault on the dignity of the Blackman. The African was denigrated, kicked and imprisoned. He was seen as less than human. There were Whites-only clubs, there was official segregation policy on housing, schools, sports and what have you. It is natural that for the sake of his dignity, any man was bound to resent such cruel and contemptuous treatment. No-one would accept being regarded as second-rate citizen on his own land and fatherland. Those were the evils that made apartheid White minority rule abhorrent and it was fought until it was defeated in 1992. As I did state in 1989 on this page, apartheid means separate development. Those who operated it were immature, ignorant and loveless. Remove the evils that attended it, separate development by different peoples, different races was and still is the right thing so that no people will hinder the other in their development. Each would move at their own pace and light, and learn from one another.

In conversation with my boss, Dr. Stanley Macebuh, when our discussion drifted to the issue of apartheid in South Africa and I stated the foregoing, he was shocked and he almost threw me out of his window. An exceptionally bright and thoughtful fellow, who loved challenging exchanges, debate and triumph of reason, in his leisure hour when the day’s job was less pressing, he was wont to send for me if, in his words, “you have about 10 minutes to spare.” My position which he described as strange, shocking but fascinating got him restless and the argument went on for months. The rest, as they say, is history. But we enjoyed our years together; amazing years they were.

What is the way forward? A majority of the countries of the world have their concepts upside down of what makes a nation and how communities are formed and why they are brought together to form a nation, sometimes by force, coercion or cajoling. In doing so, certain fundamental principles of peaceful co-habitation are glossed over.

People in different countries stand at different levels of inner maturity which fashion their outward development and give rise to societal cultures, values and goals. Usually, the goals of component parts of a country are not properly ascertained by those who carve out nations, out of ignorance or desire for power and influence or public acknowledgement of having done a great thing. Every people are separated and put in different towns, clans, villages, zones and classes in accordance with their homogeneity, the similarity they share, so that one community does not disturb the other in its development. It is in the course of their development that they determine their priority and goals. Each people are endowed with the resources they need at a particular time for their development. Out of material consideration, however, nationalities that have nothing in common are brought together to form a country, sometimes at gunpoint, thus tampering with the natural order in the false name of progress and civilization. The consequences are that their cultures are ignored and trampled upon; there is attempt at imposition and there is resistance against same. The goals of the different people in the mix are set aside and this leads to disequilibrium which in turn leads to societal disharmony and then war. Each people want to prove that they are entitled to self-determination, demonstrating this in their aspirations. And so, they defend their values instinctively, with all their being. Why should these manifest truths of life not be recognized? For centuries there have been struggles by different peoples to assert themselves and uphold their values in line with their recognitions of intrinsic virtues.

No people, no race is superior to the other. They are indeed, expected to stand side by side, respect one another, take what they find useful of the values of the other community in line with their new recognitions, but not seek to dominate or make all peoples uniform. If it was in the design of the Creator, the Most High, He would have made all peoples one. The inner development of a man and his placement in one zone, or community is determined by a consequence of the exercise of his free will. He then strikes a level with some others and they are drawn one to the other by the Law of Homogeneity to form a community. We learn in higher knowledge spreading on earth today that “…the direction of men’s fate is always determined by themselves alone through their wishes and volition, and that the Creator does not look on and intervene to reward or punish.” Diversities are primary and should be allowed to flourish. Until these principles, one of which is that communities arose out of homogeneity of peoples, are respected, there will be instability and distrust and purification gale encompassing the whole world will sweep away all falsities whether in thought or deeds.

The call for a rethinking in South Africa will be hard to contemplate how much more bring to fruition. However, it is food for thought. There can be one country, but different development in different provinces. The currents at work in the cosmos can no longer be stemmed.

(Because of space constraint, regrettably, I am again unable to conclude my tributes to my friends and colleagues. I am so sorry, indeed. I had planned to express my view on currency redesign as well.)

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