The military never left power.
Forget all that jazz about democracy in the so-called “Giant of Africa”. Even common civil rule is neither here nor there.
The democracy we practice in Nigeria is a musical chair of retired generals.
Writing in his book, The House My Father Built, Adewale Maja-Pearce has the following words on the subject: “Things reached a head on Saturday, 29 May 1999. I remember the date because I was watching the parade at Eagle Square in which a soldier in uniform handed power to a soldier in Agbada in the name of democracy, what Fela called ‘army arrangement’. I had some friends round and we were laughing at the absurdity of an event that could only have happened in Nigeria…”
In effect, democracy was manufactured by the military to only be handled by their retired generals.
The idle civilians can only mess things up, in the thinking of the military fixers.
Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua came up as civilian shoo-in after the Third Term debacle, and promptly died a protracted death!
The other civilian child of necessity doctrine, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, had to go to make way for a retired general.
The relationship between the military types and the civilians can be likened to the Snake-and-Toad story retold by Chinua Achebe in the inaugural Nigerian National Award Lecture the late novelist gave in Sokoto on August 23, 1986.
The story goes thus:
“One day a snake was riding his horse coiled up, as was his fashion, in the saddle. As he came down the road he met the toad walking by the roadside. ‘Excuse me, sir,’ said the toad, ‘but that’s not the way to ride a horse.’ ‘Really? Can you show me the right way, then?’ asked the snake. ‘With pleasure, if you will be good enough to step down a moment.’ The snake slid down the side of his horse and the toad jumped with alacrity into the saddle, sat bold upright and galloped most elegantly up and down the road. ‘That’s how to ride a horse,’ he said at the end of his excellent demonstration. ‘Very good,’ said the snake, ‘very good indeed; you may now come down.’ The toad jumped down and the snake slid up the side of his horse back into the saddle and coiled himself up as before. Then he said to the toad, ‘Knowing is good, but having is better. What good does fine horsemanship do to a fellow without a horse?’ And then he rode away in his accustomed manner.”
The retired generals have it all, and they can ride their horse in their habitual fashion.
Now any politician who aims to survive in the general scheme of things must perforce toady up to the retired generals.
This way, so-called progressives, expired Marxists, ill-assorted activists, tribal jingoists and ethnic irredentists are now prostrating on all fours to be accommodated by the retired generals.
It is all so pathetic.
Prebendalism and favouritism are being given the perfume of integrity and saintliness.
Our politicians have turned into sedulous slaves of the retired generals. The claim is that the incumbent retired general has succeeded in retiring all the erstwhile retired generals.
Don’t bet on it, for in Nigeria, things change only to remain the same.
It is as though the country is in suspended animation. Anything can happen.
We have come full circle, as it were. It is so much akin to the last day of 1983 when the civilian regime of the Second Republic was sacked by the selfsame generals.
The people are back to looking for essential commodities (Essenco)!
Poverty and starvation have put huge exclamation marks on the heads of most Nigerians!
In the recycling and repackaging acts of retired generalship, the contradiction cannot be starker than the sight of the current global flier in super-duper presidential jets despite the much-ballyhooed Spartan life of poverty!
Like Chichidodo, the Ghanaian bird that hates shit but only eats worms that live only on shit, as limned by novelist Ayi Kwei Armah in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, the retired general of change hates corruption with all his heart but revels in the company of many henchmen of corruption.
Nigeria is the coveted land of retired generals. They are so powerful that they can do and undo. Only they can make Nigeria ungovernable, and only they can make the country governable when they so wish.
Power is their pepper soup.
Why don’t we then enshrine it in the constitution that only retired generals are qualified to preside or lead or rule or whatever?
We can thus save this benighted country all its troubles of very expensive inconclusive elections.
Welcome to the Federal Republic of Retired Generals (FRRG)!