By Tunde Odesola
Once upon a Babel, there was a tower that reached to the heavens. Like Nigeria, Babel was a country that thrived on visionless tyranny, but eventually fell off the global map into extinction. For Babel to disintegrate, the country’s tongue lost the unifying power of communication and the falcon no longer heard the falconer.
Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, who built the all-saving Ark, led the construction of the all-destructive Tower. Sometimes, a prodigal son trashes excellent heritage by burning the tree of inheritance. Located in present-day Iraq, the remains of Babel ruled by Nimrod, a mighty hunter, fascist and narcissist, have become critical references in archeological studies and political misrule.
Babel shares a few disturbing traits with Nigeria. Like Babel, Nigeria, under Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), appears irreversibly committed to self-death, yet hounding all voices of reason pleading soul-searching and repentance from the sworn path of doom.
The breakdown of communication in Nigeria, as it was in Babel, is on three levels. They include intra-government level, government-citizen level and government-government level. Instructively, however, extreme leadership failure is the dagger to the heart of Nigeria’s communication breakdown and the harbinger of the accompanying hardship on the citizenry – just as it was in Babel.
The breakdown in intra-government communication is evident in the senseless wars that have rocked the Muhammadu Buhari nepotistic administration. They include the shameful combat between Buhari’s late relative and Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; the insult by Okija Shrine client and Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of Bullion Van fame and his failed Kogi governorship hopeful godson, James Faleke; Inspector General of Police, Muhammamed Adamu vs the Chairman, Nigeria Police Service Commission, Musliu Smith; disgraced Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu vs Department of State Service; Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami vs Magu; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu vs the late Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Maikanti Baru.
Within the mismanaged Buhari government, sacked National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole and Ngige the giant, assaulted Nigerians with individual public hubris. In line with the chauvinistic body language of the Buhari administration which limits women to ‘the kitchen and the other room’, the intra-government war within the Buhari rulership is clearly no respecter of women as the Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the Minister of Communication, Ali Pantami, used armed men to chase her and her staff out of the office space given to her commission. The list of intra-government insurgencies in Buhari’s confused government is endless but I’ll limit myself to the above-mentioned examples in the spirit of fairness as I ask a simple question: Are all these fights in the interest of the nation or the pocket?
Communication breakdown on government-citizen level is the government’s unheeding of the daily lamentations of anarchy, starvation, diseases, poverty, insecurity and hopelessness by millions of citizens who regret the country’s political leadership and wished they were citizens of other countries where leadership is meaningful. It’s also the agony of thousands of citizens who’ve lost their loved ones to killer Fulani herdsmen, murdering Boko Haram and terminator kidnappers and bandits who daily paint the country with the blood of innocent souls while the Buhari government folds its arms akimbo and lounges on the throne with legs crossed in indifferent majesty.
The Buhari-led APC government is light years away from ordinary citizens. It’s not close to influential citizens, either. The government is just stranded in a world of its own do-nothing.
Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, grabbed his fertile pen last week and warned that Nigeria was fast sailing to the cliff of extinction. For the first time in the foreseeable past, Soyinka publicly agreed with former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the perilous direction of the Nigerian ship.
In a frightening depiction entitled, “Between ‘Dividers-in-Chief’ and Dividers-in-Law,” Soyinka said, “We are close to extinction as a viable comity of peoples…On Africa Day, May 2019, organised by Union Bank of Africa, I similarly seized an opening to direct the attention of this government to warnings by the Ota farmer over the self-destruct turn that the nation had taken, urged the wisdom of heeding the message even while remaining chary of the messenger.
“That advice appears to have fallen on deaf ears. In place of reasoned response and openness to some serious dialogue, what this nation has been obliged to endure has been insolent distractions from garrulous and coarsened functionaries, apologists and sectarian opportunists.
“This nation is divided as never before, and this ripping division has taken place under the policies and conduct of none other than President Buhari…Does anyone deny that it was this president who went to sleep while communities were consistently ravaged by cattle marauders, were raped and displaced in their thousands and turned into beggars all over the landscape?”
Soyinka went on to bemoan the suffering of pensioners, numberless Benue farmers slaughtered by suspected Fulani herdsmen, army of jobless Nigerian youths, age-long corruption in the petroleum ministry headed by Buhari in military khaki and the lopsided unitary system of government being deliberately practised by the country.
For a global literary colossus of Soyinka’s stature, preemptive intuition should be a given. Having been in the vanguard of social re-engineering struggle for 70 years, Soyinka perfectly preempted the unintelligent response of the Buhari administration to his admonition. He said, “The rains did not just begin to beat us yesterday in the nation… Past leaders will not be permitted to forget or gloss over own self-centered interests and nation corrosive lapses that brought us to this parlous present.
“But we do endure in this here and now, in the immediacy of current governance, so let no uppity flunkey attempt to divert attention from current realities, realities that now clearly pronounce this nation of once promising prospects a basket case of abject penury and insecurity, where hordes of trained minds and sturdy limbs roam the streets as beggars, as haphazard vendors of the products of other people, other lands.”
By his response to Soyinka’s advice, Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, is a perfect fit for the uppity flunkey character described by the octogenarian. And uppity flunkey means arrogant uniform-wearing manservant.
In his characteristically insulting reply to the myriad of cracks identified by Soyinka on Nigeria’s famished geography but which Buhari has widened into abysses, Adesina said Buhari inherited a ‘terribly’ divided Nigeria from Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, adding that there was nothing special about Soyinka’s warning.
If a terribly divided country was truly inherited from Jonathan, Buhari’s misgovernance has terribly shattered the delicate egg of the Nigerian nation into smithereens. If Buhari reads the news and has answers to Nigeria’s problems, he would’ve long known he doesn’t need uppity flunkeys like Adesina around him. Unfortunately, however, the delusive Adesina probably knows far too much than Buhari in everything except cocking a gun and herding.
Last but not least level of communication breakdown inherent in the Babel and Buhari governments is the government-to-government communication breakdown. The inability of the Buhari regime to get repatriated former public officers, who stole billions during the Jonathan years and fled abroad, is a telling indictment on the ability of the Daura leader to communicate the goals of his government to other world leaders.
Also, Buhari’s reaction to the visa ban imposed by the US and the UK on perpetrators of violence during the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections exposes the mouth of a crying government in diapers. If democracy had been improved by a grain in the last five years of the Buhari leadership, the US and UK needn’t hold up the cane of visa ban.
Make no mistake, countrymen, I hear deep snoring from the cockpit of the green-white-green plane on auto-pilot. The signs are ominous.
Written by Tunde Odesola and first published in The PUNCH on Monday, September 21, 2020.