Those who forget not and remember not
A few days ago, the media space was awash with the news of the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to the heart of the Caliphate in Sokoto. The former president was there to commiserate with the family of the late Sultan of Sokoto, Ibrahim Dasuki over the passing of the 93-year old ex-monarch. Jonathan’s visit was quite understandable and would naturally occupy the public space. After all, the son of the late monarch served as National Security Adviser under the former president. More so, he has been standing trial on massive corruption charges for various acts committed against the Nigerian state on the watch of his principal. But then, as important and as eye catching as the visit was, it was happenings outside the immediate focus of activity that made the news. An ever inquisitive and sensation loving media, ever ready to share the good and the bad with the public, gleefully reported the gathering of youths with placards showing support for Jonathan and asking him to please come back as president to save them from the hunger ravaging the land.
How quickly we forget! How true the saying that the only lesson that man learns from history is that he learns nothing and forgets nothing. Our penchant for collective amnesia is well known in this clime. After all, this is a country whose political leadership abrogated by fiat, the teaching of history in our secondary schools. The reported massive enthusiastic welcome Jonathan got from the citizens of Sokoto is both unfortunate and welcome. Barely 18 months ago, Nigerians were anxious to see the back of the Jonathan administration which they held responsible for just about everything that went wrong with the country. Personal or individual failings of the citizens were also firmly laid at the door step of the administration. He was blamed for Boko Haram, for the Chibok girls, for the various acts of kidnapping across the country, for bad roads, poor electricity supply and, oh yes, corruption, plenty of mind blowing corruption! Jonathan just had to go so that a new, just and prosperous order could be brought about. It was time for CHANGE and sure enough, under the guidance and supervision of one half of the same political class, Nigerians trooped out en masse to effect change and by the time the dust had settled, the incumbent president became an ex-president.
Fast forward 18 months later and, like a man who, in a moment of frenzied agitation has committed the abominable act of homicide, Nigerians are asking “what have we done”? No matter how hard they try, they can`t seem to shake off a certain feeling of moving from the frying pan to the fire, of sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind.
The people of Sokoto were not doing anything extraordinary. They were simply putting on display their frustrations and sufferings. They were obviously trying to get back strongly at those who had taken their trust and loyalty for granted, those who had `lied’ and `deceived’ them about a better life, a new Nigeria. Let the people of Sokoto realise that they are not alone in their legitimate expression of civil rebellion and dissent against the existing political order. Everywhere, all over the country’s people are in solidarity with any civilised action that sends a clear message of defiance and disappointment to those in charge of the country. But it would be foolhardy to believe that there is a general clamour for a Jonathan comeback to the presidency. The public support shown for the former president in Sokoto was just an advertisement of the desire of the demonstrators to hit the current President Muhammadu Buhari and his APC allies where it would hurt most in their hearts.
We, however, can no longer afford to be a historical in our engagement with our country. We cannot forget to remember where we are coming from. We know what happened when the Germans forgot what happened in the First World War. The Second World War happened and over 26 million people lost their lives. Collective amnesia can be quite dangerous because it ensures that mistakes of the past can be repeated since the past no longer serves as a guide to the future.
Jonathan’s deeds and misdeeds must not be forgotten. But the good news in all of this is that the reported massive enthusiastic reception of the former president is the clearest warning to the present president that he is losing the plot. Hunger can be a very wonderful tool for the perpetuation of injustice or the liberation of mankind. While Jonathan was kicked out for the growing difficulty and hunger in the land, Buhari is in increasing danger of a greater humiliation on the heels of a more disastrous and calamitous performance by his government. We have always consented that the hunger or suffering of the people will eventually limit the extent of parochial loyalty in Nigeria.
A hungry man thinks less of ethnic, regional or religious loyalty and affiliations. This is why in faraway Sokoto State, the heart of the caliphate, a man from the creeks of the South-South is once more eliciting the support and sympathy of the people of the North. When today’s people hail yesterday’s `villains` as heroes, it is simply because today’s heroes are more villainous. That is the lesson for Buhari, his party and allies.
Chude, a novelist and public affairs commentator lives in Lagos.
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