Connect with us


Mfonobong Inyang: Democracy Day 2023 – A Reminder That Nigeria Belongs to the People



The trees once intended to appoint a king. They said to the olive tree, “Reign over us” but the olive tree said to them, “Should I cease giving my oil with which they honour God and men just to sway over trees?” Then the trees said to the fig tree, “You, come and reign over us.” The fig tree said to them, “Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit just to sway over trees?” Then the trees said to the vine, “You come and reign over us.” The vine said to them, “Should I cease my new wine, which cheers both God and men, just to sway over trees?” Then all the trees said to the bramble, “You come and reign over us!” The bramble said to the trees, “If in truth you anoint me as king over you, then come and take shelter in my shade but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon!”

There’s no need for any hermeneutics to declassify this anecdote whose lead archetype is Abimelech; it’s a simple lesson on choice and consequences. Good people are too consumed by their own sense of self-importance instead of the collective such that they cede leadership to power-thirsty brambles who only offer pain and destruction.

As we mark Democracy Day, I speak directly to what I believe is my considered opinion on the state of the nation, especially in the past eight years, which have taught Nigerians very bitter lessons. Those learnings can be summarised in three simple words: elections have consequences. Without mincing words, Nigeria has been left in a far worse mess and that’s putting it rather politely. Just look at the self-proclaimed giant of Africa, unable to conduct something as simple as a credible election after almost 63 years of independence.

What we are going through now is a result of political rascality that has gone on unchecked for the longest time. On the one hand, the failure of institutions brought us here. If only some people were courageous enough to dispassionately do their jobs, this fiasco would have been nipped in the bud long ago instead of constantly setting up the judiciary as the scapegoat for the irresponsibility of political actors. On the other hand, we as citizens have to take responsibility for our collective hypocrisy during the leadership recruitment exercises. This includes the so-called good persons who refused to participate by running for elective offices and voting, leaving the space for the worst amongst us to emerge. Such indifference is a co-sign to the harbingers of abominable governance. We’re also here in part because of patriots who have arisen to Nigeria’s clarion call; they have learnt obedience through the things they suffered and have drawn the line, insisting that it ends here and no further.

I‘m not one of the ‘intellectuals’ who bear false witness or eggheads who see evil and call it good. Since 1999, we seemed to have progressed in error, successive governments always look to outdo their predecessors in corruption, impunity, abuse of human rights, economic mismanagement and insecurity. I dare anyone to present five key socio-economic indices that have improved in the last eight years with incontrovertible evidence and from irrefutable sources. Almost every record for a quantitative metric of growth since 2015 has been shattered.

What about qualitative parameters like freedom of speech? Human rights? Social justice? Nigeria isn’t in the top ten of press freedom in Africa. Leah Sharibu is still with her captors since 2018. Who gave the order on the night of 20/10/2020? We gather dey when dem kill Deborah Yakubu. Terrorists strolled out of high-profile prisons and not one head rolled. Sitting Justices of the Supreme Court being given national honours just about the same time electoral outcomes are being fiercely contested? This is a country where a serving senator openly admits to influencing Appeal Court judgments in favour of his colleagues. I’m not making these up.

Perpetrators of the St. Francis Catholic Church massacre in Owo or militia attacks in the Middle Belt have not been brought to book. It’s sad how people talk about the politicisation of deaths around here; the way we have become numb and normalised to the loss of human lives is wild. You cannot tell an American, for instance, to move on from marking Memorial Day or 9/11. Whether Democrat or Republican, it’s a sacrosanct line that mustn’t be crossed – they vowed to never forget. The security landscape of the homeland was forever changed and every agency radically recalibrated their protocols. That’s why ten years after when Geronimo bought the farm, the streets were filled with people chanting “USA”.

DJ Switch and some others are still fugitives from their own country for actions that are not unconstitutional but some other people who have executed pogroms, and displaced entire communities have been forgiven and told to go and sin no more. Abubakar Dadiyata, a social critic, is still missing. The 9th Assembly which co-signed on much of our humongous debts, clandestinely tried to criminalise protests and religious practices in 2023. As usual, our culture conditions us to blame the victim(s). So instead of holding the oppressors to account, we tell the victims to be respectful and behave themselves. Fela once sang: “na respect I respect wey I no answer you, wey you open mouth for me, no be say your mouth big pass my own”.

Look at Nigeria on the world stage; we have become a giant that isn’t gianting. Save for our insanely talented youths that constantly put up wins, there is little to write home about. Give it to President Olusegun Obasanjo, things like the Sudan Extraction could have been much better handled. Baba Iyabo would have pulled some strings on the continent – even Chris Hemsworth could have done a better job with $1.2 million. Every day, international media platforms report one scandal or the other. What we don’t know is that ordinary Nigerians both in the motherland and in the diaspora will pay the price of this reputational damage.

So it’s ironic when this rascality is being challenged and some people refer to these patriots as fascists. Omo, thank God say we go school, na so dem for use big English take run us street. A generation that protested against a military junta because their meal ticket increased by 50 kobo and could easily afford a brand new Santana barely six months into a job is telling the generation that has to work their socks off for at least three years straight to stand any chance of buying a tokunbo 2009 model car to hold hands and sing kumbaya? People that shut down the country several times with protests, called for a civil war if fuel subsidy was removed in 2012, threatened to form a parallel government and were hailed as being a virile opposition are now attempting to rewrite history. This joke writes itself.

We find ourselves where we are now because our forebears moved on after every instalment of electoral fraud. Moving on without justice made things progressively worse. My generation has just lost eight out of their most productive years on God’s green earth to hellish governance. Have we seen how quickly things went south in Senegal? Young people are not playing. This isn’t business as usual. Here we are with all eyes on the judiciary, not even for them to take sides but to simply defend the constitution. That’s not too much to ask; the sky will not fall when the judges do the right thing.

Immortalising a person’s legacy has gone beyond hiring hagiographers with exotic names and certain skin tones from across the Atlantic to produce books. I should know this because that’s my turf. It’s easier when you are a private citizen to control narratives but as a public servant, whatever literature you put out there will be effectively co-authored by the people you served. At best, you can only tell your side of the story – whether truthfully or disingenuously.

I quite appreciate the brutal honesty of that blind man, he could have pretended all was well. Instead, he admitted to the messiah that he needed a second touch because his perspective was still warped and he saw people as trees. One day, we will learn the hard way to see politicians properly when we head to the polls. Until then, let’s keep pretending, deceiving ourselves and hoping that a Danfo will somehow go as fast as an F1 car.

The night is dark and full of terrors but not for long. The sun will rise upon Nigeria sooner than we think.

Now available in select bookshops and on my Selar Store - get your hands on my brand new book, Hope Is Not A Strategy; Faith Is Not A Business Model - Mfonobong Inyang is a creative genius who works with top individuals and institutions to achieve their media, tech and communication goals. He is a much sought-after public speaker and consummate culture connoisseur who brings uncanny insights and perspectives to contemporary issues. As a consummate writer, he offers ghostwriting, copy-writing and book consultancy services. A master storyteller that brilliantly churns out premium content for brands on corporate communications, book projects, scripts and social media. A graduate of Economics – he speaks the English, Ibibio, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa languages. He appears to be a gentleman on the surface but the rumours are true - he get coconut head! Reach out to me let us work together on your content project(s) - [email protected].

Star Features