Frankly, we don’t care much about the political skulduggery that parades up on down the pages of Nigerian newspapers because, fuck politics, that’s why. Most of what you see is the same old news: ass licking, back stabbing and fifty shades of public masturbation. Even more importantly, there are world-shaking current events that requires our immediate attention, if not even outright demonstrations.
But, now and then, some gem of an ironic cock-up comes along, grabs you by the throat and tickles you hard in the ribs till you want to seize your office-issued laptop and throw it across the room in annoyance.(Which would be totally cool if you tried it right now.)
Now, this particular issue isn’t a shiny new story, it’s the same old crap, with a touched up tissue paper. And no, it isn’t the particular scandal you’re thinking: you know, that pile of wank about the Sanusi-Boko Haram conspiracy theory; that story circulated (allegedly, allegedly—this is for the damn lawyers) by a presidential aide who has to be the most interesting man in the Nigerian social media circle right now.
We’ll get back to Sanusi. But, for now, let’s focus on the ringleader of the president’s batshit crazy media circus, our erstwhile tutor and rebel leader, Mr Reuben Abati. See, back in 2009, before the mischievous gods took a hand in his affairs, Abati wrote this thoughtful article where he advised Nigerians to reflect before celebrating independence anniversaries. Not one to be intimidated by a few lines of hyperbole, Abati proclaimed that: “The world is passing us by. At 49, we are a nation of malcontents. When last did anyone tell a happy national story made on Nigerian soil?”
A fair enough observation, especially from a bright and hardworking intellectual who had had to face the hard knocks of working class reality in a country consistently administered by rouges since 1914. Life as an everyday Nigerian isn’t sexy–and damned if Reuben Abati didn’t know that shit. There was nothing to celebrate in 2009, and he looked ahead to proclaim that there was nothing to celebrate in 2010–and by extension, 2014. But Abati, hot and brilliant writer that he was, sucked hard in the prophecy department, for, as we all know, his personal life became a happy national story. The deadbeat jalopy gave way to presidential jets, and our previously angry discontent turned into a contented philosopher.
So, great, Abati discovered financial orgasm and renounced his activism. But the hunger-inspired words he wrote some four years ago still require some serious consideration. Especially after the Sanusi debacle. Especially after the Boko Haram debacle. Especially now that our government has gone bonkers with a centenary celebration which good old Soyinka frankly refers to as a “canonisation of terror“.
Of course, hard as his PR team may try to deny it, we all know that President Jonathan is quite the connoisseur of wine, women and the good life. Which are all fine things for the modern gentleman. But with a terrorist takeover of the North East, allegations of financial misconduct, and several other shenanigans, the dude needs to connect with the current atmosphere of the country—and then, you know, maybe take a break from one or two delicious female members of the cabinet.
We don’t begrudge celebrations. But the current socio-political mood is just as important as a sense of history, and neither of the these two point to the need for a jamboree today. Think of this: Abati wrote years ago that there was nothing worth celebrating; Sanusi, former member of that same government, says things are even worse than they were years ago. But Sanusi is what happens when you have an activist in the government, and Abati is what happens when you have the government in an activist. Somewhere in between these two is some common sense, but common sense doesn’t receive centenary awards. And if you still don’t get the point, then get the fuck outta this blog.
In the last one week, there’s been plenty of evils afoot. It seems that everything went haywire just because we took a one-week break from blogging. Take a look at the list: pardons were granted irresponsibly to criminals, a pope was elected faster than we could watch the smoke, comedic memes were exploding across the naijanet, and Jim Iyke wore shorts to some sort of movie award.
We’re so sorry about all of that. We’ll try hard not to let things go bananas again. But, meanwhile, today we will examine the pardon issue—by kicking you in the shinbone, and waking you up to the realities of Nigerian life. If you’re a Nigerian and you don’t know what we mean by “the pardon issue”, then get off the internet and go weep in a corner. If you’re not a Nigerian, then just read this Wikipedia article to get you started.
Of course some things have not changed. The current president of Nigeria is still pulling stunts of the most incomprehensible kind, the first lady is still doling out cash to law school students, and the defenders of the president are still defending the president.
But despite all these, it has actually become harder to criticize the president—not because there’s been a reworking of government thinking—but because things are so screwed up you won’t even know where to begin the untangling anymore. So, instead, we tend to treat the president like that negligent boyfriend of yours: you don’t mind if he continues to screw up as long as he pays lip service to the relationship. And we rest content in the knowledge that sometime, very soon, we will kick him out.
But despite all of these allowances, the government isn’t content with your indifference. Instead, the government is intent on raping you as painfully as possible. And so the aforementioned Goodluck Jonathan, in another logically incomprehensible action, pardons Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (of late, an ex-convict and a felon) in a way that is essentially GEJ grabbing you by the shoulder, spinning you around forcefully and shoving his big black butt in your face in a grand “kiss my ass” gesture.
And that’s very very painful, because you got served, citizen sucker!
Whether as a society or as individuals, folks enjoy the feeling of importance. And therefore, a primary reason for ranting against GEJ’s pardon is because he thumbed his nose at the general opinion of the public-–and he made no pretense about it. Of course, strictly speaking, few Africans expect the government to toe the line of the people, but there is an ingrained comfortable illusion that the government bothers all the same. We like to think that, as citizens, we matter to our government. And as a general rule, most governments also try to pretend that their citizens matter to them.
And so GEJ pushed aside that illusion and put us in our place. He made it clear that he doesn’t owe the Nigerian public any apology. He’s right to an extent: you cannot fault the legality of the pardon; the average citizen is not directly affected by the criminal record of the beneficiary of the pardon; and according to news, the people of Bayelsa are jubilant over the pardon. But still, you say, GEJ is “our” president. He ought to listen to us and consult us—especially in this fight against corruption.
And that’s your lesson for today: as a Nigerian living under a Nigerian government, your opinion is irrelevant. Get used to this idea and stop being a crybaby. While there is no guarantee that another government will perform better, there is the singular fact that this government really doesn’t care. As much as it gives some emotional release, ranting will not change the mediocrity of government. It will highlight and showcase it, maybe. But it won’t change it. The government is only stirred by the action of the people, not by their opinion. The best you can do, in the absence of any action, is to laugh—hard and long at the comedy of our own existence. And speaking of laughter:
No, we didn’t forget our comedy event of the year. You see, when the gods declare that you are destined to become a meme, nothing in this world can stop it.