[Bamidele Upfront] The Useful Tragedy of Port Harcourt, Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

Since the beginning of this democratic experiment in 1999, getting elected into public office has turned majority of those elected to serve us into power-drunk, opportunistic, insufferable arses. Last week, the elected thugs of the Order of St. Patience Bulldozer presented us another useful tragedy to learn from. With Nigerians you really never know; acting out in public is most often the dramatic extension of the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob. Senior Apostle Evans Bipialaka was only acting on behalf of his personal savior, benefactor and master St. Patience Bulldozer (his “jesus christ”).

When it comes to Nigerians, our body politic suffers less from ignorance, more from repressed memory and most from impunity. In life, mistakes of buying often occur in the marketplace, where you can overpay for something decent or you can overpay for junk. Under the People’s Democratic Party, Nigerians not only overpaid for indecency and absolute junk, we have also paid for contagion. The blame is ours and the joke is on us.

Why is this tragedy useful? It is useful because we now know and appreciate how depraved we are and the uncivilized message we are sending the civilized world. Markets display choice to buyers, we have made our choices in those we elected and they represent what is wrong in us and with us. We have made bad choices and actions do have consequences attached, the blood sport of the Rivers State house of Assembly is one of such consequences. Fortunately, the law does not involve choice, the law is about compliance if enforced. Being a consumer is discretionary; being a citizen is not. We are consuming the choices we made at the elections. We have consumed the bizarre spectacle of slaps, beatings and mace whacks.

Who knows what next we are to be fed? The useful lesson of our political tragedy is; being a citizen isn’t discretionary. Citizens have a set of rules to live by. What is the law about public conduct in this country? What is the law about impeachment under the Nigerian constitution? Do you wonder why arrests have not been made? St. Patience Bulldozer has become the law in Rivers State and in Nigeria. She has hijacked the presidency. The unruly baboons of Port Harcourt are her apostles, they are protected.

Let’s not kid ourselves, the very stuff of the Nigerian tragedy is ethics. The drama in Rivers State is an encounter with ethical problems of native corruption, impunity and power grab. At the core of every tragedy is an ethical struggle and ethical encounters in communal tragedies take many forms. Its various forms are unfolding in all sectors of our national life. There can be no doubt as in this case, that tragedy occurs when desires conflate with ethics, plunging the protagonists and antagonists in turmoil. Nigerian political tragedy is a set of plays, a concentric circle of the most absurd. A theater where no law is inviolate, where the laws of numbers are perverted. At the heart of our tragedies is an art form where practical politicians and law enforcement make cynical and unscrupulous use of power for their own ends. We are a militarized society, a society steeped in violence, where violence is now a sport, it has become so common as to seem less outrageous. Unfortunately, our capacity for outrage is exhausted. We live in a country where politicians tell us what they want and induce how we think; a callous misappropriation of mass indolence.

How have we come to this as a nation? How can we understand how we have come to be at the brink of political catastrophes, educational dilemmas, lingering energy deficits, religious upheavals, escalating terrorism, place-based kidnappings, progressive ecological crises and resource descents? To know how, we must take our citizenship more seriously. Civic misbehavior is ratcheting up into a set of cataclysmic forces going into 2015. We should stop being deluded, praying instead of taking our destinies in our own hands. Our problems and actions are home grown and manufactured. It is not initiated by any malicious outside forces or extraterrestrial elements, but rather, resulting from the inappropriate, selfish, corrupt and malevolent decisions of individuals and small groups, most often acting alone and sometimes in concert. The self-moralizing and misplaced response of Ayo Osinlu the Chief Priest, Order of St. Patience Bulldozer is a testament to this fact. He told us Rotimi Amaechi launched into a river he had no skills to swim in. The subliminal message to us is; Rotimi launched into their river and can become food for crocodiles. We were advised to leave him to his fate, even Prof. Wole Soyinka was given enough warning to cease and desist from questioning Jonathan’s rampaging “domestic appendage of power.”

I still believe in the goodness of man and in one Nigeria. However, I cannot ignore the despair and despondency brought about by the destructiveness and unsustainability of our civic misbehavior and mass complacency. We must be awake to the reality that our endemic national despair comes from having years of unmet expectations, plunder of our resources by a few and most of all the election of saboteurs into political office. The apostles of greed can accuse of those of us who speak and write about their recurring malfeasance as taking far too narrow and pessimistic view of Nigeria and our politics but the infestation is no longer localized. It is festering.  I am taking the pessimistic view because there is nothing optimistic about Nigeria. Collectively, we must never waver on the need to highlight, promote and elect leaders that are refreshingly honest, driven and patriotic. Jointly, we must commit to a commanding passion – a greater Nigeria and Nigerians outraged by oppression, corruption, stealing, conversion, impunity, cronyism, deplorable education, fatalistic health systems, and every dangerous adjectives of  “-isms”, “-sions” and “-tions” plaguing Nigeria. In place of elected brutes and political thugs, we must elect a set of leaders who know and believe that everyone matters, that we all are unique and entitled to a simple life of dignity, freedom and happiness. We must take our citizenship seriously and pay attention to small things, knowing small things lead to big things and small evils lead to bigger evils.

Again, another lesson in the useful tragedy of Port Harcourt is; this federation as structured leads inexorably to the unsustainable outcome of a disunited Nigeria. We are luxuriating in maladaptive behaviors viz. misappropriation, conversion, tragedy of the commons, resource over-consumption, ecological overshoot and many more. Our current path can only lead to ruin. Is there a way we can behave more honorably and reasonably? I don’t know. I don’t know because I wondered if the assembly thugs of Rivers State were raised by savages. Everyday in this country, we deplore the loss of moral values, the extent of national decay, impunity, abuse of power, disorientation of youths, cultism, police brutality and arbitrary powers deployed by unelected spouses. The full list of ethical questions facing us today, would be much longer knowing who we are and how pathetic our rationalizations have become. Pray, what kind of children can the Orangutans of Rivers sire? It is, what it is. God bless Nigeria.

Kindly follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo

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