Nigeria: Same Old, Same Old: If Nigeria Were a Human Being, It Might Well Adopt a Retort Made by the Great American Humorist, Mark Twain, When He Was Informed That the Newspapers Had Dispatched Him to the Next World. "Reports of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated," Mark Twain Said. Cameron Duodu, Currently on a West African Tour, Reports That Recent Reports of Nigeria's Imminent "Demise" Are Greatly Exaggerated

Article excerpt

If Nigeria should emulate Mark Twain I it would, in fact, represent poetic jus-H tice of sorts. For no less a person than I Nigeria's first president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, was forced to follow Mark Twain's dictum and deny his own death in November 1989 - seven good years before being called to join his ancestors.

Dr Azikiwe's reaction to his premature obituaries - one of which appeared in The Daily Telegraph in London (a paper that he had no doubt once read with special interest, being the gallant fighter against imperialism that he was) showed more emotion than that of Mark Twain.

"Zik" of Africa, who was very well read, did appropriate Mark Twain's witticism to describe his own situation. But he twisted the knife more caustically into the wounds of the journalists who had unceremoniously killed him off prematurely: "I feel ashamed to belong to a profession that can make such a blunder," he said.

Over the years, "obituaries" of Nigeria - or pale versions of them - have appeared regularly in the worlds press. During the Nigerian civil war of 1967-70, the Federation was "buried" many times. Media pundits were convinced that the "Biafrans", led by Colonel [later General] Odumegwu Ojukwu, would emerge victorious and that as soon as that happened, the rest of Nigeria's larger ethnic groups would also splinter from the centre (then based in Lagos).

The survival of Nigeria after that traumatic episode, one would have thought would silence the "obituarists" for good. But no: whenever there is unrest anywhere in the Federation, say in Ogoniland, or in the areas once threatened by the armed group known as MEND, or more recently, in the Northern areas whete "Boko Haram" is holding sway, it becomes the backdrop against which the "unnatural alliance" that brought Nigeria into being, is viewed.

But even in "unnatural alliance" Nigeria, good news does happen. In October, the African-American tennis stars, Serena and Venus Williams, passed through Lagos as part of a two-nation African tour that saw them play exhibition matches in Nigeria and South Africa. In Lagos, the sisters visited Government House where the dynamic and development-oriented state governor, Babatunde Fashoda, hosted them to an animated discussion on "the role that women play in shifting perceptions and encouraging development at all levels across the African continent".

Sadly, the leaders with whom Nigeria has been saddled in recent years have not been exactly confidence-inspiring types a la Babatunde Fashola. In the early 1990s, General Ibrahim Babangida worked hard to achieve a measure of popularity, which he used to spawn two political parties (one "a little to the left and one a little to the right", as he was wont to describe them) which, incredibly, were accepted by the politicians of the country.

But having, against all the odds, created the enabling atmosphere in which the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC) could thrive, Babangida placed them in the ring to engage in a thrilling political combat. Yet when one of the parties won the battle, the same ring-master whose rules had been scrupulously followed during the fight, declared the result null and void!

Up till today, he hasn't given his countrymen a satisfactory answer to the question: "Why did you nullify an election in which Chief M.K.O Abiola beat Bashir Tofa fair and square, to obtain the mandate of the electorate as president?"

As for General Sani Abacha, the mention of his name is enough to present a scenario so bizarre that unless someone has just crept up from beneath a rock under which he or she has hidden for two decades, it needs no "rewinding".

And then, another strange episode in leadership: General Olusegun Obasanjo, a prisoner of Abacha's, was released from prison after Abacha's death and assisted by Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar's military government to become president. …


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