By Nwachukwu Egbunike
*[This essay, originally written in 2004, was published in my book “Dyed Thoughts: a Conversation in and from my Country” (2012), Ibadan: Feathers and Ink, pp 2-5.]
It’s election time in Anambra State and it would be instructive to put things in perspective. Nothing sharpens the appreciation of the present than the past. While we keep #Anambra2013 in view, let us never fail to recall the sordid memory of old which, unfortunately, now forms part of our history.
Rape on Mama Anambra”, was the caption of the centre spread of the Guardian (Saturday, 3rd December 2004). The full-page pictures showed the injury that was inflicted on you. The first reaction is that of anger and later, pity. A rage that boils within the bowels and cries to heaven for vengeance. Who will not react thus after seeing the desolation of your sanctuary? The havoc that was inflicted on you speaks volumes of the heartlessness of the perpetrators. Those who you carried on your lap and breast-fed from your bosom? Those who intentionally wreck havoc on their homeland with the connivance of outsiders are no longer fit to be called your children.
Years ago, we were the pride of the east, now we are the laughing stock of the country. Who will not cry when hoodlums continually ransack his homeland, in the full glare of the afternoon sun? Those who, under normal situations, should be occupying a comfortable niche in Kirikiri, now shamelessly impersonate as the lords and masters of our destiny. It all started as a joke, we thought that soon they would learn their lessons. Mbadinuju vs. Offor was just a prelude to the greater evil that was to come. What we witnessed will only equal US invasion on Iraq.
Mama, our state has been declared a war zone; it is the theatre for the fight between two political contenders. We are obliged against our wishes to be spectators of this cinema of shame. The plans that were made and sealed in the secrecy of the night have now become known to all. Two tight friends, or rather, a master and his servant are now at loggerheads. Things have fallen apart between them. We are no longer at ease, even Achebe was obliged to reject their awards. We had no part in their pact but are presently paying the prize for a sore relationship. The servant no longer wants to remain loyal to his master and honour his part of the bargain. The master, on the other hand, is losing no sleep to ensure that he recovers his investments.
Mama, permit me to laugh a little, for this whole event is nothing but comical. Mama, do you remember that they deceived us when they said there was going to be an election? We naively stood and waited under the scorching sun for hours on end to exercise our franchise, foolishly hoping that our votes will count. Our votes ended up in the bin, while Abuja released their own results, or, better put, “selected” their governor. Even a toddler knows that Peter Obi was our choice. That we were downcast was only an understatement. For us, this is to be the second in the series of our forced slavery to moneybags.
Mama, we knew neither Ngige nor his benefactor. We were only aware that all of a sudden the PDP had a candidate. We wanted the team of the trader and teacher. We said enough to this rape on you and on our collective intelligence. Little did we know that the same machinery that was used to return Oga would be used for his boys. We tried our best, though we were outwitted by the federal might. The same people, who said that they have lost confidence in Mbadinuju, all of a sudden endorsed Ngige. In their folly they thought that they had won, only to lose. Yes Mama, they lost because the small thief had stolen from the big thief. Who then can sit to judge on this case?
Mama, you will agree that in this sour relationship between a once loyal servant and his master, providence intervened and their quarrel and separation was to our advantage. God finally took heed of our supplication and heard our prayers. Salaries that had been withheld for ages were suddenly cleared. Pensioners, who had been told that they should go and die in peace, were suddenly paid the arrears of their pensions. Our roads, after decades of neglect, were remembered and patched up. In the bid to outdo the master, the slave turned to us. Our smiles were wide as it crossed from one cheek to the other. The so-called profit that could have accrued to Uba’s capital was now used in carrying out the affairs of state. Heavens as usual, had wrought good out of evil.
However, we thought that the good times would continue while they fought their war. No, it was not to be. While other states reaped the “dividends of democracy”, we were forced to chew the ruins of the demons that have gone crazy. The worst of it all is that this is taking place despite the numerous illustrious sons and daughters that you have: uncountable men and women of timber and calibre, caterpillar and trailer, etc. To this list was just added the newest wives of the oga vee-pee. Ours is a long roll call of the nouveau riche and money miss road, whose only principle revolves round the erroneous value system, “that money makes everything legitimate, including bastards.”
Take heart Mama for the injuries inflicted on you by outsiders with the assistance of your own. The Baba in Aso Rock, who has a record of being a no-nonsense fellow suddenly, seemed to have gone lame. The Baba, who dispatched a group of soldiers to Odi and acted rather too fast in declaring a state of emergency on Dariye, has refused to move a muscle in doing justice to our case. It is said that old people have a propensity to suffer from senile dementia, but our Baba is not that old. He just needs to be reminded of his sermon on the 17th of May 1999, that “there will be no sacred cows. Nobody, no matter who and where, will be allowed to get away with breaching the law or perpetrate corruption and evil”. Perhaps, Uba’s havoc does not fall into this category or is this sheer injustice? It seems that justice is preferential; the law is impotent on big men. They keep on playing politics with our lives. The constitution is no longer to be followed in dealing with those that commit treasonable felony. Baba moves his eye away and feigns ignorance on the aetiology of the crisis. He wants us to believe his hands are tied while even a toddler knows that he alone can stop the current mayhem. Mama, do you wonder where I suddenly draw all this knowledge from? It is not just my invention; I read the letter that Oga Chairman wrote Baba. The big family, as they call it, seems fed up with our predicament. They have finally decided not to treat it as a family affair; somebody finally mustered the guts to speak to Baba. The response to that letter only proved my lamentations.
The stench is rather horrible. That Ngige did not win the elections is no longer a speculation, it has made headlines. Even our saintly Baba, has attested to that. What rather baffles me is the pretence of many that claim ignorance of this fact. As we await the decision of the courts on the matter, Ngige is still our governor. As soon as he took the oath of office, he became an embodiment of the majesty and grandeur of the state. His official capacity demands, in the very least, some respect. He may be a crook, a man without honour or loyalty – though I do not see why one has to keep a covenant with the devil – the moral culpability of his act would be a thesis on its own. In spite of all this, as one American president was quoted to have said, “he may be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch.”
Mama, we have seen many bear hugs, all are filled with a lot of charity, warmth and affection. It was comical to see Ngige and Uba embracing each other soon after the bombing of our state. It was the greatest theatre script that was ever acted. I only pity poor Egwu, who took it up to reconcile such two opposing poles. May they never reconcile, because anyone who wants peace between them certainly wants us to remain in perpetual slavery, tufiakwa!
Let them continue playing chess with our destiny. Tell them Mama that with your old age, you have seen governments come and go.