FORMER President Olusegun
Obasanjo’s recent bombing of
President Muhammadu Buhari
does not make him a better
candidate for national heroism.
After all, the outcome of his letter
to former President Goodluck
Jonathan is the person whom
he has just attacked. If care is
not taken, the next president in
2019 might even be worse than
Buhari. This is not a death wish
for my beloved country. Never.
Far from it!
But Nigeria is a nation of experts
without roots. We are always
creating tacticians who are blind
to strategy and strategists who
cannot even take a step. And
when the culture has finished its
work the institutions handcuff
the infirmity. But what is at the
centre of the panic which is our
national culture since we are not
yet free to choose our leaders?
Seeing how ineligible dunces
who don’t even understand the
secret of their private appeal,
talk-less of what the nation
needs jostle for power, I realize
all over again that Nigeria is an
unhappy contract between the
Rich and the Poor. It is not that
Nigeria is altogether hideous, it
is even by degrees pleasant, but
for an honest observer, there is
never any salt in the wind.
Yet in Nigeria, the myth of
politics and the reality of life
have diverged too far. There
is nothing to return them to
one another, no common love,
no cause, no desire, and most
essentially, no agreement here.
Nigeria needed a hero before
the exit of the Whiteman, a
hero central to his time. Nigeria
needed a man whose personality
might suggest contradictions
and mysteries which could reach
into the alienated circuits of the
underground, because only
a hero can capture the secret
imagination of a people, and so be
good for the vitality of his nation.
A hero embodies the fantasy of
his people’s imagination and
so allows each private mind the
liberty to consider its fantasy and
find a way to grow. Each mind
can become more conscious of its
desires and waste less strength in
hiding from itself.
Roosevelt was such a hero,
and Churchill, Lenin, De Gaulle
and Mandela. Even Hitler, to
take the most odious example of
this argument, was a hero- the
hero-as-monster, embodying
what had become the monstrous
fantasy of a people, but the
horror upon which the radical
mind and liberal temperament
Nigeria’s unending leadership crisis
progress, to the belief that social ills
can be solved by social legislating,
for it sees a country as all-buttrapped
in its character until it has
a hero who reveals the character of
the country to itself.
The implication is that without
such a hero the nation turns
sluggish. Babangida, for example,
was not such a hero. He was
not sufficiently larger than life.
He inspired familiarity without
excitement; he was a character
while in power but his proportions
came from cunning. And because
of his high sense of insincerity,
Babangida as a national leader
was full of salty common-sense
and small-minded uncertainty.
Small wonder, he allegedly
declared himself “an evil genius.”
He is full of tragic-comic mixups.
Whereas Abacha had been
the antihero, he was only the
spoiler-as-regulator. Nations do
not necessarily and inevitably
seek for heroes. In periods of dull
anxiety such as we are, one is
more likely to look for security
than dramatic confrontation. And
Abacha could stand as a hero
only for that small number of
Nigerians who were most proud
of their lack of imagination. Talk
of Shagari? In Nigerian national
life, the unspoken hopelessness
of the Second Republic took
place between the large city of
Corruption and the small town
of Hypocrisy: corruption was
dynamic, orgiastic, unsettling,
explosive and accelerating to
foundered was that he gave outlet
to the energies of the Germans and
so presented the twentieth century
with an index of how horrible
had become the secret heart of its
desires.
Roosevelt is, of course, a happier
example of the hero; from his
paralytic leg to the royal elegance
of his geniality he seemed to
contain the United States within
himself. Everyone, from the
meanest starving cripple to any
ambitious young man could
expand into the optimism of an
improving future because the
man offered an unspoken promise
of a future which would be rich.
In Roosevelt, as in Neru, the
grandfather of Indian nationalism,
the poor, the hardworking and the
imaginative well-to-do could see
themselves in the president, could
believe him to be like themselves.
So, a large part of the United States
was able to discover its energy
because not as mush was wasted
in feeling that the country was a
poisonous nutrient which stifled
the day. This is just an attempt to
construct a simple model. But the
thesis is after all not so mysterious.
It would merely nudge the notion
that a national hero embodies
his time and is not so very much
better than this time, but is larger
than life, and so is capable of
giving direction to the time, able to
encourage a nation to discover the
deepest colours of its character. At
bottom, the concept of the hero is
antagonistic to impersonal social progress, to the belief that social ills
can be solved by social legislating,
for it sees a country as all-buttrapped
in its character until it has
a hero who reveals the character of
the country to itself.
The implication is that without
such a hero the nation turns
sluggish. Babangida, for example,
was not such a hero. He was
not sufficiently larger than life.
He inspired familiarity without
excitement; he was a character
while in power but his proportions
came from cunning. And because
of his high sense of insincerity,
Babangida as a national leader
was full of salty common-sense
and small-minded uncertainty.
Small wonder, he allegedly
declared himself “an evil genius.”
He is full of tragic-comic mixups.
Whereas Abacha had been
the antihero, he was only the
spoiler-as-regulator. Nations do
not necessarily and inevitably
seek for heroes. In periods of dull
anxiety such as we are, one is
more likely to look for security
than dramatic confrontation. And
Abacha could stand as a hero
only for that small number of
Nigerians who were most proud
of their lack of imagination. Talk
of Shagari? In Nigerian national
life, the unspoken hopelessness
of the Second Republic took
place between the large city of
Corruption and the small town
of Hypocrisy: corruption was
dynamic, orgiastic, unsettling,
explosive and accelerating to the psyche. But hypocrisy was
narrow, cautious and planted in
the life-logic of the lazy yes-men
and political jobbers. Rather than
retard the expansion of these two
weapons of failure, Shagari could
only beautify them with colour,
and character thus elevating them
into a novelty.
It was Murtala who was close to
a national hero but was summarily
extirpated by the evil machinations
of imperial forces. Obafemi
Awolowo made the list at the
regional level but he was stopped
by feudal pretenders. Buhari was a
twin-faced Janus who was neither
here nor there. Nigeria needed
him, not Nigerians. What was even
worse, he did not divide the nation
as a hero might with a dramatic
dialogue as the result (which was
what Obasanjo had pretended to
do in 2005). Buhari merely excluded
one part of the nation from the
other by banning free speech. The
result was the alienation of the
best minds and bravest impulses
from the faltering history which
was in the making. For Obasanjo,
he might claim that he did not
invent corruption in Nigeria, but
it merely proliferated during his
dull and fearful reign. And the
incredible dullness wreaked upon
the Nigerian landscape in his eight
years of civil dictatorship has been
the triumph of corruption as a
national enterprise, leaving him as
one of the richest former leaders,
and his country one of the poorest
in the world. A tasteless, colourless odourless sanctity in manners,
modes and styles, has been the
result. Obasanjo embodies half
the needs of the nation, the need
of the timid, the petrified, the
sanctimonious, and the sluggish.
He knows that he cannot be
counted as a hero in the true
sense of the word.
Nigeria’s desperate need
between now and 2019 is to
make an existential turn, to walk
into the nightmare, and face that
terrible logic of history which
demands that the country and
its people must become more
and more extra-ordinary and
more adventurous in search of
good materials for leadership.
The search for a national hero
must be sincere and total and
it must begin now. The late
President Umaru Musa Yar’
Adua would have made a good
leader but for his failing health.
Former President Goodluck
Ebele Jonathan had not given a
damn and had helped Nigerians
to rediscover themselves by
providing a platform on which
Nigerians could talk freely
about the future of their country
and the type of leaders they
wanted. But the document from
that platform was rejected by
Buhari. Which is why we are
back to square one. Can Nigeria
ever find the elusive leader? The
crisis continues!

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