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Visions of the Alfa Talakawa, from the Proletariat...Nigeria, as I see it

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010


El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon would go down in history as the world’s longest serving, sorry, ruling President.

Quite amusing is the fact that on the 7th May 2009, when he had to go seek medical attention for Cancer in Spain, the Gabonese Government only announced that Papa Bongo had temporarily suspended his official duties and taken time off to mourn his recently demised wife and rest in Spain!

His eventual death on June 8th 2009 (or earlier, God knows) was vehemently denied to the extent that the foreign ministry summoned the French ambassador to protest about French media reports of Papa Bongo death, which according to his Prime Minister, were intended "to sow doubt in the spirit of the Gabonese for undesirable ends".

Internet services were cut; access to international media was restricted, till the game ended. And so, El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon slept with his fathers, and his son, Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba reigned in his stead” (this reads so much like the chronicles of the ancient kings of Israel to me!)

In Niger, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Mamadou Tandja ran for Presidency in 1993 and lost to Mahamane Ousmane. He lost also in 1996 to the I-switched-from-bullet-to-ballot candidacy of Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara, before winning at last in 1999.

One would think this man would approach the Presidency with a deep sense of sobriety; DEAD WRONG! In no time, his First and Second Terms expired and he wanted to self-propagate to a Third term. By 27th June, 2009, Tandja announced he was suspending the government and would rule by decree. By February 18th, the Military had intervened.

Let me take you on a mental journey to France, the French Revolution (1789–1799). Before that time, society into Three Estates: First Estate (clergy); the Second Estate (nobility); and the Third Estate (commoners). The king was considered part of no estate.

The Clergy not only unabashedly adopted this system (animal farm, anyone?) but further classed themselves into Higher (Bishops) and Lower (parish priests, monks and nuns) Clergy. They paid no taxes; they also owned 10 percent of all the land in France, which was exempt from property tax. They however, paid a "free gift" to the state.

The second estate is what I called Pseudotalakawa in previous blogs. They were content with owning lands and some tax exemptions, so they could not be bothered about reform.

The third estate comprised all those who do not belong above and can be divided into two groups: urban and rural. The urban included the bourgeoisie, as well as wage-labor (such as craftsmen). The rural includes the peasantry, or the farming class. The Third Estate includes some of what would now be considered middle class. What united the third estate is that most had little or no wealth and yet were forced to pay disproportionately high taxes to the other estates.

If you are a late entrant, please read my early blogs to find a parallel with what we have today. Knowing however, that there are lots of people who dread clicking an extra button, I would place an excerpt here:

….Need I add that the word has Arabic roots, and that the Yoruba (Western Nigeria Language) word Talaka, meaning The Poor was derived from this root? The Hausas in Nigeria would define the Talakawa, in contrast with the Al-majiri( Destitute) and the Masu Sarauta (Aristocrats) simply as the Common Man, and it is the fundamental philosophy that change in the society rests on both the neck and shoulders of this people (Talakawa)...who else should we expect it from?

This is disputable, but it is said that the Revolution was provoked when the peasants complained they could not afford bread and the Queen replied: "Let them eat brioche." (brioche is a luxury bread enriched with eggs and butter).

In any case, the revolution began, and cannon bearing women of the Third Estate marched and precipitated the sack of the Monarchy. The King and the Queen were among those whose necks gave way to the guillotine.

I have observed the gross impunity on the part of brats who obtained political position under the aegis of their fathers and I shake my head with both pity and disdain. Apparently, it is not only our offshore-turned-hologram President that has Pedicarditis; there are so many with a worse kind, because, while his own case is a medical condition, these people actually have a mental condition!

When the military felt they could disregard the people, General Ibrahim Babangida (deliberately not adding the RTD thingie) had his own first dose. Massive demonstrations took place and he was compelled to ‘step-aside’; however, not without including a Trojan in the system. The Trojan would activate General Sanni Abacha (deceased) who unleashed a reign of terror. He crushed revolts by all means, yet with each one, another rose. He was going to have his way, anyway, as the Five-fingers-of-a-leprous hand (Late Bola Ige copyright) political parties endorsed him as a consensus candidate. But the the words of Abraham Lincoln rang through: No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent’. Abacha died in office and that was all.

Honestly, I sincerely wish I don’t have to retract the ‘that was all’ because that was not all at all! The Trojan was still active; the death of Abacha was just the removal of a spawn virus.

Three new parties were formed. Actually two.

Late Bola Ige, who had played a prominent role in G34 (the group that sent a letter to Abacha to vacate office through Chief Solomon Lar), together with the others, gave birth to PDP. The Trojan was activated soon as retired Generals with junta-powered-megaloot invaded the Party like locusts.

There was a conflict of ideology. So, Ige left. The next point of call, All Peoples Party(APP) was not better (a good part of the members were those who supported Abacha’s self-succession bid). So, Ige and his colleagues left to form AD.

The decision to pull out of APP affected the choice of party system. Abdulsalami Administration had proposed a two party system. Party registration had closed by the time the South West leaders and their friends from other zones approached the electoral commission for registration. But the Chief of general Staff, Admiral Mike Akhigbe who had served as governor of old Ondo and Lagos States cautioned against denying AD registration. His contention was that the denial could result into a credibility crisis for the transition programme (Considering the June 12 debacle). By the ‘Doctrine of necessity’, the Electoral Commission invoked a clause whereby if only two parties qualified, the party which finished third would also be allowed through.

The bug produced Obasanjo, who was vehemently opposed by the Nigerian Students and a good part of the South-West, but the Yorubas, out of the desire not to rock the boat, resigned to the omo-wa-ni-e-je-o-se (He’s our son, let him do it) syndrome.

Obasanjo (PDP) won Olu Falae, the AD-APP candidate, by 62.78% to 37.22%. By 2007, the Trojan had morphed PDP into a win-by-all-means behemoth. In grossly flawed elections which spawned several overturns and re-overturns, Buhari, a retired General and former head of state, and the ‘worthiest opponent’ only garnered a fourth (6,605,299) of Umar YarAdua’s total recorded votes (24,638,063) in spite of concerns over the latter’s health. It became obvious that the PDP Presidential Primaries is the actual (s)election, even if a rabbit becomes the candidate.

So honestly, I would not blame Madam (Prof. Dora Akunyili’s copyright) for holding the entire nation to ransom and running a parallel government. I would not blame those soldiers that stood like zombies ‘awaiting orders’ while the genocide in Jos went on before their very eyes but did not hesitate to cut-off power supply at the airport to bring in whatever-was-in-the-ambulance-they-called-the-president. I would not blame that legislative brat that ignored the Youths’ voice of reason in spite of the fact that he belongs to their generation. I won’t even blame the soldier who reached for his gun while harassing Audu Maikori, the learned poet and young CEO of the Chocolate City record label on March 16th, 2010, the day the Nigerian Youths found their voice and organized a peaceful rally in Abuja.

I will blame you if by 2011; you do not step out to vote against tyranny, I will blame you if you do not strive to ensure you are neither physically nor mentally disenfranchised.

The 300 Spartan warriors were no match for King Xerxes, as a matter of fact; they were crushed by his Persian army. But then, it was a pyrrhic victory.