”Presidency: Days of coups, revolution over”, tra la la

Opinion

A recent news report stated the following: ”A statement by the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, described organisers of the [Sowore coalition] protest as “faceless,”… “The ballot box is the only constitutional means of changing government and a president in Nigeria. The days of coups and revolutions are over. [Emphasis mine]. https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2019/08/04/presidency-days-of-coups-revolution-over/

First of all, our caveats: We do not as of principle canvass for and or against coups and revolutions. In fact, we hold no immediate interests in governances per se. Luckily, the definition of citizenship does not include an [existential] interest in how governance powers emerge or govern. Our interest in governance is fairly abstract, that is scholarly. In other words, it is really none of our business if Nigeria scatters like broken china in the sun. It is also not our immediate worry if Nigeria achieves spectacular glories. What is of concrete importance to us is that whatever happens should yield fodder for study and contemplation.

Actually, this ”letting go” position is a derivative variant of the mandate of journalism. Of course we are all comfortable as consumers of journalism, perhaps instinctively. Then this. For instance, Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, put journalism’s mandate the best. According to Turner, when and if the world ends he hopes that the CNN will be there to report it. In other words, Turner’s bother is not about the world coming to Armageddon, it just might as well do. Turner’s bother is that journalists are well and alive and at work, reporting the collapse of the world, including America.

If one recalls that journalism is ”the first rough draft of history,” it is then apparent that the historian has no duty being bothered his country goes to pieces or comes to glory. His only worry is that whatever be the fate of country A or Z, that it be basis for the next best discovery in historical science.

Shehu’s quip provides us with such a fodder, a basis for historical inquiry. Since history is larger than a moment in time, we are asking Shehu if he has completely forgotten Nigeria’s recent past?

If he has not, then he should have been aware that General, rtd., Muhammadu Buhari, his principal did not start his foray into governance as an elected candidate. Before now, President Buhari was either a participant, enactor, beneficiary and or instigator of coup/s. And it was on the basis of such a putsch that he rose to become dictator, aka head of state, etc. That much is fact.

It also follows that Shehu in being the official spokesman of his principal is for all practical purposes his master’s voice. Next, the following questions are indicated. First, is it moral, is it equitable, for a beneficiary of an act, to canvass a historical cessation of the same act, in one lifetime? Two, can such as one who keeps the benefits and never repudiated his erstwhile act, be preaching, even if impliedly, that such an act is amoral or illegal if conducted by other parties in other times? That is, is it morally upright for a man to inveigh against an act he has drawn and continues to draw benefits from? To the best of our knowledge, almost all Nigerian coup makers are in honor. And more specifically, this includes Shehu’s principal, even before he contested to be an elected president.

Additionally, how are historical epochs triggered on or signed off? In other words, was there really a time that it was epochal, that it was/is in season to do coups and revolutions? If yes, which times and seasons were those? And how and who delineated same? That is how did Shehu arrive at seasons of coups and seasons of non-coups? Can he show any metrics? Or was it as it suits his principals?

Even more, are historical epochs fixed by ruling powers? That is can a president or his agent, including his mouthpieces, assert that a historical ”concession” or age has begun or ended? To the extent history tells, it is the job of historians not participant politicians, to sign in or sing off epochs and historical seasons. If you asked why, the reason is simple. It is that it is incestuous for a man in the game to be fixing the rules or boundaries of the turf even as he is in the play. It is simply wondrous for a participant-player to also be a regulator or delineator of rules and traditions and turfs. This is especially so in a democracy.

Finally, we have read the release by Shehu several times. We are of the opinion that whatever its merits, it would have served his masters best if Shehu wrote or spoke with a sense of the burden of history upon him and his principals. Of course we write in full recognition of Soyinka’s re-canonization of Buhari as a born-again democrat. Even if one granted that, the point remains as follows. While being born-again may wipe away your many and varied sins, its brief is not to wipe away history. That’s why Americans laugh out loud at their president, Donald Trump. The guy is canvassing against immigrants. And his fellow citizens can’t help thinking him dud. How can a man who married to as many as two immigrant ladies, be canvassing the denial of similar chances to t others? Is Shehu and those who sent him playing the Trump-like game, of being innocent only in their own delusion?

Hello, is that the CBN?

If we had the telephone number of Godwin Emefiele, we would be calling him. There is an unfinished business of some urgent importance. Anyway, the newspaper page can help us get across to him as perhaps the telephone lines even wouldn’t. Additionally, the newspaper makes it all in the open. Openness is the best antiseptic against future fabrications.

The matter is as follows. But first the frame story. Everybody who should, knows Dilibe Onyeama. Just as a reminder, Onyeama is the author of the world famous ”Nigger at Eton,” amongst other titles. Lately, Dilibe is now settled into a career of writing and publishing. He is based in Enugu.

Some weekends ago Dilibe was in Lagos to give honor to those to whom honors are due. And amongst those were Ambassador Mrs. Tokunbu Dosunmu nee Awolowo and Anote Ajeluorou. Mrs. Dosunmu is well known by virtue of her family connections and personal achievements. On the other hand, Anote, a seasoned journalistic hand is a fast rising literary star. His first book has made the long-list for the 2019 NLNG prize for literature. For a first time [book] writer, that is a singular feat. Thus like Achebe said of Ms. Chimamanda Adichie, Anote comes to it fully formed.

As a literati of sorts, I had the privilege of reading the manuscript. I found it enthralling and brilliant. Of course, I am thus not surprised it is riding the critical waves. Perhaps, besides the fine writing, it is the thematic concerns of the work that makes for its freshness. Titled ”Igho goes to the Farm,” the work can be read as a fable of the unappreciated richness of rural lives and living. Of course, with increasing urbanization, the book becomes a required reading for our children and charges who live out all their lives in the cities. It is a clever way for the kids to connect with the beauty of rural life without leaving the cities.

It is here that Chris Mammah comes in. Mammah, for those who won’t know, is an editor’s editor. And he spoke. For Mammah, and I quote from memory, the CBN is making an error of categorization. It is an error of category to have a special fund for the arts that excludes writers and makers of books. For him, an Arts Fund that includes Nollywood, dance etc. but excludes poets and publishers is not yet the Art Fund.

The omission is uncalled for. For instance many of the blockbuster movies we have seen in cinemas and on other channels, are actually adaptations of written books. An obvious example is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. The film version is one of Nollywoods great box office winners of all time.

And another speaker, whose name I can remember, spoke, ”completing” Mammah’s sentences as it were. For this speaker, Igho goes to the Farm is a work, Nollywood should be racing to turn into a flick. The story will do wonders for our children and of course would be a financial hit too. The point is if the fund is not extended to writers, how do we ensure we have as many Igho goes to the Farm as we can have.

To summarize, the Emefiele-led CBN is already on a good trajectory. All they need to do is expand their vision. They should include writers and book makers in the list of beneficiaries for art fund.

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