UNITED STATES’ OFFER OF HELP TO STEM BANDITRY & KIDNAPPING:
Bridging a Yawning Gap Between Foolish Pride & Foolhardiness
I recall the legendary velvety-voice Jimmy Cliff’s epic song entitled “Foolish Pride”. The didactic lyrical content is worthy of being revisited so that the haughty ones can learn useful lessons. The legendary reggae artiste reminded us all: “Foolish pride can make you helpless. Foolish pride will bring you emptiness . . . your small mind, you will find or you incline. Foolish pride can bring you stormy day, and can eat your heart away. Foolish pride, can lead your heart astray, suffer you, wake you up and make you cry . . . “
It is not a show of humility when a dwarf takes a lesson on body-building from a giant. Neither is humility at play when a youth heeds the counsel of an elderly person. When a student learns useful theories and principles from his teacher, he is simply doing the expected and just being discreet. Thus, it is not news. In journalism parlance, the unexpected that turns real may determine the newsworthiness of a story; like when a wife impregnates her husband. However, humility is at play when a powerful giant takes useful advice from the dwarf and Lilliputian. That defines my view about true humility.
In “Our Infamous 50th Macabre Dance” (Guardian July 4, 2010) at the heels of the 50th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence, this writer had given a treatise on Nigeria’s self-imposed albatross. But why macabre dance, a puzzled friend had made a call to me in Monrovia, Liberia where I was then on an assignment. Like Bob Nesta Marley would sing: “what is hidden from the wise and the prudent is often revealed to the babes and suckling.” I saw the tenacity of purpose of the Liberian political class and their genuine efforts aimed at revamping Liberia - a relatively small nation in the sub region that had just overcome the shock of an internecine civil war few years back. It was at variance with that of Nigerian politicians whose treachery I also saw and many of whom often engage in artifice, egocentricity and pretentious altruism. At the Liberian electioneering, ballot boxes were neither snatched by political thugs, nor burnt down by rented brigands and arsonists. No supervising youth corp member or electorate was hacked down. No political assassination on their streets. Nigeria’s elections are often marred by dangerous politicking brickbat, vindictiveness and acrimonious politicking. No nation ever moves forward without the genuine spirit of statesmanship by its political class and leaders. There must exist, the true willingness to serve and ameliorate the people’s suffering. Every other thing amounts to egocentricity and self-serving inclination.
In almost every corner of Liberia, I also saw the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) military bases elegantly festooned in military camouflage, which evidenced the vestiges and symbolism of gallantry of the combined military forces established in 1990 by the West African multilateral armed forces of the ECOWAS. It was a laudable cause, which Nigeria boldly championed and largely financed to quell the 1989-1996 war, which eventually brought succour and helped Liberia back on her feet. Thus, from decadence of war, Liberia moved on with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the saddle. So, no matter the problems, any nation being governed by honest leaders with sincere intentions would rise up from the doldrums and cul-de-sac. Indeed, as at 2012 when I left the country, Liberia was still being closely monitored by the ECOMOG, headed by a Nigerian Army General to sustain the cease fire. Though not without some criticisms from political pundits and international relations scholars, ECOMOG’s role was applauded as a good model of regional conflict resolution.
Aside from playing father-figure role in the West African sub region, Nigeria also led and committed huge human and material resources in ECOMOG’s military intervention during the Sierra Leonean civil war which led to peace restoration in 1998. Much earlier on, Nigeria largely supported South Africa to free her from the jackboot of the apartheid regime in 1994. All this shows the interdependence of the nations all over the world. But foolish pride kills, like Jimmy Cliff sings above. While Peter Tosh reminded us all that a fool dies of want of wisdom. But wisdom protects its owner, so says the holy Bible.
I recall the story of a man en route the city from his farm, bearing a very heavy load on his head – the produce from his farm which was about 10 kilometres from the city. Under serious fatigue, excruciating neck pain and profuse perspiration, a truck overtook and drove past him. But apparently noticing the weary farmer who was also going in the same direction, the kind-hearted driver offered him a ride in his open-roof truck; and off he zoomed en route the town with the sagged and famished farmer at the back of the truck. But looking back through his rear-view mirror, to his dismay and chagrin, the weary man he thought he had helped from his excruciating burden of bearing heavy load and trekking in the scorching sunshine was still bearing the heavy load on his head, while the truck moved on! Aside from economic strangulation, for how long will Nigeria rebuff offer of support; or call for help in the face of overwhelming evidence that the people are groaning under intense threat from kidnappers, bandits and herdsmen? While many citizens including students are in kidnappers dens being slaughtered and raped, thousands are dying of painful and ignoble death weekly through gun shots, strangulation and slaughtering in every corner of the country from Plateau State to Bauchi; Kaduna to Benue; Borno to Zamfara, Yobe to Kano etc, while thousands of parents and babies are being displaced continually. Yet this country’s leaders, under the watchful eyes of Mr. President are foot-dragging, while relying on security network and apparatus that have consistently failed to nip in the bud a raging disaster.
Nigeria’s situation now appears like that of this indiscreet farmer. What a country having a beast of burden on its neck and suffocating disaster staring it in the face, yet refusing to accept offer of help, or call for it due to indiscretion and foolish pride, which Jimmy Cliff says often brings emptiness, stormy days and sorrow. What measure of Nigeria’s pride diminishes or gets corroded if Nigeria accepts offer of support from the U.S. Government to prevent daily genocide? A nation thrives on security. A nation being ravaged by intense insecurity is an abattoir; a gulag. But does Nigeria of today still live under the illusion of being the giant of Africa whose “honour” and pride would be tarnished if it seeks foreign assistance? Like Angus says of Macbeth’s kingship in Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “ . . . his title hang loose about him like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief . . .“ Perhaps Nigeria is still deluded in this Giant of Africa’s robe! A toga that is no longer fitting and has long since become faded and jaded and should be consigned to the garbage dump, while Nigeria re-sharpens its focus and puts its house in order, perhaps to regain its lost honour. That delusion perhaps makes the Nigerian government feel it is infra-dig to accept external support offer from the United States government, while disaster looms larger each day.
Still on the title; viz: “Our Infamous 50th Anniversary Macabre Dance.” I am inclined to explain my position further. Macabre portends dreadfulness and horror. It portends doom. Thus a macabre dance is likened to a dance into the throes of doom and disaster. If hitherto imperceptible smoke surged under a man’s roof, but he chooses to recline, eating chicken & potato chips and sipping red wine with his wife and children who are hoodwinked into thinking that all is well, rather than quickly check and douse the cause, he is inviting perdition, not only on himself but also on his innocent family members. Perhaps they are all on terminal buffet dinner. Since that 50th independence anniversary Nigeria has slid further into far much debauchery beyond corruption and now crass insecurity everywhere in the country.
Again, Nigeria’s current self-imposed travails are typical of a man bitten by a poisonous coral snake. But rather than raise alarm to plead for help in a clearly understood language, he chooses to engage in verbosity and polemics – an engagement in macabre dance - a dreadful dance of death. It is a foolish man who foot-drags, speaks in tongue, or pretends that all is well at the approach of life-threatening disaster. Why would a nation in this century take years debating on whether or not cows should be allowed to graze openly on its streets, schools, airport tarmacs while other nations are thinking of moving into higher scientific, technological and educational realms to benefit their societies and people? Worse still, since seventeen executive governors, in a country made up of 36 member states eloquently spoke against the disgraceful 15th century practice, through a communiqué, all the Presidency did was to fault their position, even while it is obvious that the open grazing has spelt death, doom and disgrace on a supposed country still beating chest and gallivanting about as giant of Africa!
The country has been fighting insurgency for far too long a time causing deaths, sorrow, tears and blood on daily basis especially in the northern part of the country. This is worsened by banditry and herdsmen attacks in the southern part of the county, which make the security architecture unduly overstretched. It is therefore curious why the country is dragging feet to embrace the alleged offer of support by no less a country than the United States which has indicated its readiness to help fight security challenges plaguing Nigeria.
According to the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Michael Gonzales in a press briefing organized by the US Bureau of African Affairs on March 11, 2021, the US realized that the level of killings and abduction of students and teachers in our schools are getting worse by the day. The report stated the meeting was held on behalf of US counter-terrorism affairs in Africa. It revealed that America “was disgusted by this endless killing.” According to Gonzales who was emphatic on US Government resolve to help solve the internal security threat: “We are looking forward to partnering with them to continue to build the capacities of the Nigerian military to be able to better protect and defend their people.”
This writer saw the call as a leeway out of the cul-de-sac, since Nigeria has now fought the intractable and perrenial insurgency for over a decade without respite. “The United States”, according to Gonzales “is ready to provide appropriate support for the Nigerian government if requested to do so.” Since Nigerians are mowed down in cold blood in hundreds on daily basis, how ready is the government to embrace this support without engaging in subterfuge, ambivalence and empty pride; after all the first human law is personal security. Gonzales went further: “On longer term, we seek to help develop the capabilities of the Nigerian security services in order for them to adequately respond to the internal threats that the country faces.”
Death toll is recorded daily from Boko Haram insurgence leading to deaths from many parts of the northern part of the country. Banditry, kidnapping for ransom and herdsmen assault thrive almost everywhere in the southern part of country. But all we hear from the government all the time is that they are on top of the situation, while the presidency regrets daily carnage, boasts of stemming the tide “very soon” and commiserates with the family of the dead in that stereotyped routine. Life evidently is no longer worth anything now in Nigeria. However, history records every government in its sacred annals.
Yoruba adage says “Bí ó bá ti bá ni là n rìn. B’ójò n pa é o máa tò s’ára” - a man handles his travails with discretion. No shame in peeing on yourself when you are being beaten by the rain.
I am inclined to borrow a wise saying here from Montesquieu, a political writer: On best form of government, let fools contest (viz debate). For whatever is best administered is best. Government presides over the living and not the homo mortis. Every citizen’s life lost is gone forever, and a calamity to the victim’s family. Perhaps, since Nigeria cannot solve her problems while lives are snuffed out in thousands on weekly basis, it is foolhardy to reject US foreign support under the guise of maintaining already diminished self-pride. I have never seen any celebrated hero in a defeated camp. Verbum Satis Sapienti.
*Tunji Ajayi, a creative writer, author, biographer and audiovisual documentary producer writes from LC-Studio Communications, Nigeria (+2348033203115; +2348162124412) (email@example.com)