Mali on my mind By Pinado Abdu-Waba

Pinado Abdu-Waba

At the risk of playing right into the prejudice of women and fashion or the naive sense of frivolity that we are often accused of, for some unknown reason, every time the country Mali comes to mind, the only thoughts I have are ebony, silk and lanky models with low cut hair, trotting down walkways in various bright, elegant and sharply contrasted couture. I also carry mental images of corresponding blend of Arab and Mediterranean styles that emits lingering incenses. Above all, however, is the memory of colorful walls adorned with African crafts, vintage mud buildings, oriental sounds and an assortment of African Cuisine.

These were the same pictures shattered in my mind after the unexpected coup d’etat that totally befuddled me. Not that I have zeroed out the recurrence of coup in Africa but the thought that the level of confusion following this situation might lead to a total disintegration of the state as in the case of Somalia.

The uprising by the Touaregs which seems to be the trigger for this current dilemma, was something I followed with keen interest because I had subconsciously interpreted it as a Boko Haram style revolt in Nigeria, which, though different in approach, seem to be expressing discontent over subliminal social issues that have otherwise straightforward social answers.

Ahmadou Toumane Toure was one of my favourite African leaders mainly because of his unrivalled type of humility, and I cannot have enough of his famous quotations that: “Quand j’etais enfant, je rêvais d’ete Millitaire, mais quand j’etais devenu millitaire, je n’avais jamais peure être president”  [“I wanted to become a military man, but when I became a military man, I never wanted to become president…”]

He was nicknamed “Premier brick” by his populace which is the French expression of laying a foundation or the first block to commence a building project, and here was a man who does not believe in being idle, hence he dedicated himself to the pursuit of infrastructural development, and job creation for his beloved citizens with the meager resources available to him. In one of the cruelest ironies of modern statehood, the seat of government has granted him his wish, the wish of not wanting to become a president.

Since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1990, the military has reclined to the barracks where they have turned their focus to the primary role of ensuring security within and outside the country, maintaining our territorial integrity, carrying out the objective that Africa is indeed the centre piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy, and if I may add, doing so in a hefty, lavish lifestyle that often insinuates that their take home package is nothing like it was even when they were in power, some cynics even say that it has something to do with the security vote that is unaccounted for and in recent times, the whooping increase in the security budget as a result of political tensions, ethnic and religious violence.

Despite this detached attitude people haven’t stopped seeking for a military rule to replace the democracy we have, it is very amusing that some even thought that the Coup should have been in Nigeria rather than Mali which is a bit more conservative and has only homogeneous problems to deal with.

Not long ago, the military overturned the government in neighboring Niger and then handed over to civilian rule after cleaning up the “mess” that the civilian rule created in the first place, this is not downplaying the fact that dear Naija will soon be completing 14 years of a successful transition to civil rule.

The trouble is that rebel groups like the Touaregs will continue to spring up now, even in geometric progression, because they are fueled by an acute sense of dissatisfaction to gain relevance. The irony again here is that by creating a thirst for solutions, processes like this end up making a statement of crushing institutions and personages regardless of whether they had anything to do with the cause of the dissatisfaction in the first place.

The list of things currently being contested as a consequence of this coup is endless, from the essentials like Land, water, food and shelter to assets like oil and Uranium which is becoming necessary to have a complete arsenal of armory that will guarantee the best security. Libya has always been Muamar Gaddafi’s Libya all of sudden we now see it as a state with more than 350 ethnic groups, which an outsider can hardly differentiate

After Wade’s gracious exit in Senegal, I could hear confident murmurs of the ship finally stirring towards the right direction, but again my pessimism gets the better part of me, I look at South Sudan and remember the struggles of John Garang and how he must have possibly smiled in his grave after the secession in July last year and I cannot help using the expression in my mother tongue that says “kwalliya bata biya kudin sabulu ba” which makes good the claim that the make-up isn’t worth the cost of the soap.

Indeed we need a stable and credible democracy but I think it is time for a home made one, one that will include our peculiarities rather than put square pegs in round holes; one that will help us device our own checks and balances so we can curb the plagues that we frequently disguise with euphemisms. How many are willing to commit? The renegade soldiers in Mali walk round getting accolades and applause from their supporters in the city, despite the fact that they seem disorganized, clueless and bereft of ideas on the next step to take– or what are we talking about?

* Ms. Abdu-Waba, a radio journalist, writes a weekly column for Premium Times.

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