The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by God as recorded in the Bible has never ceased to fascinate me. As a young boy in primary and secondary schools, and as son to a renowned educationist as well as a grandson to an Anglican cleric several years ago, this story was repeated many times during our daily morning devotions and during Religious Knowledge classes – sometimes for effect.
As I grew into adulthood, I kept asking myself why the people of Sodom and Gomorrah would suffer such a monumental destruction despite repeated warnings. Most likely, in Sodom and Gomorrah at that time, the people were neck-deep in their moral and spiritual corruption, ignoring the warnings of the prophets and sages, the last of which was the warning given by God’s angels.
In Sodom and Gomorrah at that time, the people revelled in pride, corruption, sexual perversion, blood-letting, official roguery, etc. But while the clouds of God’s judgment were gathering over them they did not realize it. When the day of their Armageddon came Sodom and Gomorrah became mere historical reference points and no more to be numbered among the cities of the world.
While those of us who know this story may continually ruminate on it, the fundamental question is whether there is any difference between Sodom and Gomorrah [and contemporary Nigeria]. Is Nigeria of today better than the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Chaldeans? I do not think so, essentially because the sins and pervasions of Sodom and Gomorrah have been replicated in Nigeria with relish. Even though the clouds of God’s judgment are gathering over this country, and the day of our Armageddon is drawing near; like the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah in Abraham’s time, Nigerian leaders and rulers of the 21st century are busy chasing shadows instead of substance.
I have often talked about renegotiating Nigeria on a round table but it does appear some people misread this. When I talk about round table negotiation, I am actually not talking about constitutional amendment as the National Assembly is empowered to carry out. In 2005 and 2013, the administrations of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan convoked two national conferences.
The recommendations of those conferences are substantially the same and hold the key to the salvation of the country. So when I talk about a roundtable negotiation, I am actually talking about sitting round a table and determining the modalities of implementing the recommendations of the conferences.
It is indeed worrisome that we are still talking about this. As a person, I have always championed the cause of the greater majority of Nigerians; I have refused to compromise my integrity or the high hopes which Nigeria signifies. In taking this road of speaking words of truth; of refusing to acquiesce in cold complicity the impunity that Nigeria has turned to, I have been threatened, blackmailed, jailed and exiled. I have been falsely accused of coup plotting on two occasions and forced into exile; I have been hounded and hunted as a prey would be by its victim. I have been imprisoned for daring to tell the military to abdicate power and stop the degenerative abuse of Nigerians and barefaced looting of our common patrimony.
As an apostle of democracy, I have led a global campaign against military dictatorship in this country. On my return to Nigeria, my residence was invaded in Mafioso fashion by Sani Abacha dogs of war; I was abducted and thrown into detention.
In the midst of all this my younger brother Victor Nwankwo, an engineer, was assassinated – all in an attempt to smother my voice. But I cannot keep quiet. Jeremiah preached for forty years, telling the Jewish people that judgment was coming. He was thrown into jail and dragged all around the city. They told him to change his message but Jeremiah said, “I can’t because in my bones I see the people perishing.” Like Jeremiah, I cannot be silent because in my bones I feel the passion to speak words of truth; in my spirit I see the clouds of judgment gathering over this country; and I see the Nigerian Armageddon fast approaching.
It is indeed disheartening that on my 73rd birthday, in my old age, we are still on this same issue; our leaders and rulers still think that without addressing the fundamental issues, we will escape the inevitable doom that is hovering over Nigeria like the sword of Damocles. The recent change of government from the PDP to the APC on the nebulous mantra of change does little to alter the course of Nigeria’s doom if we do not do the right thing. The philosophy of change which the APC preaches is otiose and bereft of depth in terms of driving the restructuring of Nigeria. What is happening in the 8th National Assembly points to a gloomy and bleak future and a lack of capacity of the APC government in taking Nigeria to the Promised Land.
The truth is that Nigeria is sick and would die if we keep pretending that she is only slightly indisposed. This is why I spoke about going to the round table to negotiate the implementation of the recommendations of the constitution conferences I mentioned earlier.
Renegotiation of Nigeria in this context does not necessarily mean the convocation of another constitutional conference. Renegotiation actually has two sides to it. We can renegotiate to make Nigeria a better federation and devolve power equitably to the federating units; or we can renegotiate to go our separate ways without firing a shot. Renegotiation here means the commitment to rewrite the colonial history of Nigeria and inaugurate an authentic Nigerian history. It means the creation of inclusive institutions that grant level playing grounds to all the federating units. It is actually through this process of renegotiation that we can lay to rest the ghost of our past – a past that has seen the Nigeria land soak up the blood of over two million Igbos during the civil war and the various politically motivated religious riots in many parts of northern Nigeria, the despoliation of the Niger Delta and the murder of Ogoni patriots, the carnage of Boko Haram, and the unrestrained treachery of the West.
We really do not have any alternative to this process. Any person or group that thinks we have an alternative to this renegotiation is deluded. The result of such delusion would be catastrophic. And if this fate eventually befalls Nigeria, it is not because she was not sufficiently warned but because her leaders, like the children of Scheol, choose to be stiff-necked. Herein lies my vindication as a patriot and an elder statesman.
Nwankwo is a social writer who lives and works in Enugu.