Friday, 29 November 2013

From tragedy to farce

The recent defection of five PDP governors to the mega-opposition APC has certainly raised the ante. APC now controls 16 of the 36 states and, according to some reports, more seats than the ruling party in the House of Representatives. But let the statisticians quibble over the figures. It is enough for our purposes that, after 14 years of ‘demonstration of craze’, as the late Fela put it, we have a possible alternative to a sleaze-ridden party which once vowed to rule for 60 years (why not a thousand?) and is now panicking all over the place at the prospect of possibly losing out in 2015. Well and good. This is doubtless healthy for pluralism, as many commentators have been quick to note, or at least it would be if APC really did represent some sort of alternative, what Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, one of its shakers and movers, called ‘a good rescue mission for our fledgling democracy. It is a must for the country, is very necessary and we are happy about that.’
I should begin by saying that I had my doubts about the APC alliance from the outset. Leaving aside ANPP, by far the most junior member and the one with the most questionable credentials (it was once known, under its previous incarnation, as Abacha People’s Party on account of the many late dictator’s cronies within its ranks), I wondered what ACN, a ‘progressive’ party which traces its antecedents to Awolowo, could possibly have in common with CPC, a party founded – and owned? – by Buhari, whose demeanour and utterances (or lack thereof) have led some to justifiably consider him a closet Boko Haram supporter. Indeed, that some believe Buhari a democrat would seem to stretch the meaning of the concept out of all recognition, but then much the same can be said of Tinubu for reasons to do with the way and manner he foisted his wife on the nation and his daughter on the Lagos State market women.
My doubts were further strengthened by the recent speculation that the Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, himself one of the defectors, might emerge the APC presidential candidate come 2015, with the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, as his running mate. Fashola, of course, would be a popular choice for reasons known only too well, although it ought to be said that his high visibility as a consequence of the so-called Lagos-Ibadan press axis has always worked heavily in his favour. Should it come to pass, Professor Itse Sagay summed it up thus: ‘Concerning the Northern governors decamping to the APC, I really don’t think it is a loss to the PDP. If you look at these rebel governors, with the exclusion of Rotimi Amaechi, you will find out that their agenda is a very narrow agenda, a very personal one. And that agenda is for the North to produce the president so that a Northerner can control the Niger Delta oil and Lagos State VAT and so on.’ I think the good professor is entirely correct in his analysis and ought to provide a warning to the more excitable amongst us who appear to believe that defeating PDP at the polls, irrespective of the beast which replaces it, will somehow prove the panacea to our myriad problems.
In light of this, my attention was caught by a recent newspaper report: ‘Police enforcing Islamic law in the city of Kano publicly destroyed some 240,000 bottles of beer on Wednesday, the latest move in a wider crackdown on behaviour deemed “immoral” in the area. The banned booze had been confiscated from trucks coming into the city in recent weeks, said officials from the Hisbah, the patrol tasked with enforcing the strict Islamic law, known as sharia.’ Nor was this a one-off: according to the same report, since September this year the 9000-strong ‘moral police force’ has made ‘hundreds of arrests...following a state-government directive to cleanse the commercial hub’ of said ‘immoral’ practices, including prostitution and homosexuality (but ignoring, conveniently enough, the widespread practise of defiling under-age girls in the name of this same Islamic law).
So there we are: a choice between a clearly ineffectual Christian southerner who should never have attained the exalted office he currently occupies but for the twin accidents of religion and geography, and a fundamentalist Islamic northerner whose proposed occupancy of that same office is based on an opposite but equal configuration. This is politics at its most primitive and the reason why we are doomed to keep repeating history, first as tragedy and then as farce, as a philosopher once famously put it. The fact that Fashola, a southerner, also happens to be a Moslem – but assuredly not a fundamentalist one – only serves to underscore ‘the buffoonery and horseplay’, ‘the crude characterisation and ludicrously improbable situations’ that are the stock-in-trade of farce; and one can already see the mischief-makers, looking for handouts from an increasingly jittery (not to say desperate) President Jonathan, make a meal out of it all. And why not? In the absence of more serious considerations, for instance the fitness of the person for the job, what else is there?
But one can hardly blame the politicians. As the English essayist William Hazlitt put it, ‘the march of power is one. Its means, its tools, its pretexts are various, and borrowed like the hues of the chameleon from any object that happens to be at hand; its object is ever the same, and deadly as the serpent’s fang.’ It was ever thus and ever will be, but the question is: What are Nigerians going to do about it as we approach what many agree will be a decisive moment in the short history of this awkward entity? Alas, not much given the wishful thinking surrounding the emergence of APC as an apparent alternative to the ‘buffoonery and horseplay’ which have brought us to this pretty pass.
© Adewale Maja-Pearce
Adewale Maja-Pearce is the author of several books, including Loyalties
and Other Stories, In My Father's Country, How many miles to Babylon?, A
Mask Dancing, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, From Khaki to Agbada,
Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays, A Peculiar Tragedy, and
Counting the Cost, as well as the 1998 and 1999 annual reports on human
rights violations in Nigeria. He also edited The Heinemann Book of African
Poetry in English, Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal, Christopher Okigbo:
Collected Poems, The New Gong Book of New Nigerian Short Stories,
and Dream Chasers: New Nigerian Stories.

Click here to see Maja-Pearce's page:



  1. ah yes, nice criticism. but what about constructing paths for us out of the maze? that's what i'll be working on ;)