The Logic of Tyrants

Posted by By at 10 March, at 08 : 47 AM Print

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From my archive


On November 10, 1995, the Nigerian military junta murdered one of the country’s finest cultural icon, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other members of his movement, MOSOP, set up to protest the environmental degradation of Ogoniland – the River Niger delta area where Nigeria derives the bulk of her petroleum wealth. Commonwealth leaders, just settling down to their meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, felt grossly affronted and promptly slapped a suspension order on Nigeria, with the threat of expulsion if the country doesn’t clean up its act. Nigeria was given two years to get democratic or else… The Nigerian government was dismayed. In statements that surprised many people, Nigeria sulked and claimed it was a victim of malicious campaign to discredit it. Was Nigeria really surprised at her suspension, and was the country genuinely dismayed at the international reactions to Ken’s murder? I went to the neo-classical mansion housing Nigeria’s High Commission in Accra and spoke with the Press Secretary.

Mr. Okonkwo was, as usual, dressed in a fine Igbo attire. The usual Bohemian expression was, however, missing. In its stead was a deep Igbo frown. Mr. Okonkwo was in a nasty funk. He greeted me perfunctorily. No handshake, no getting up from the seat with wide smiles. It soon became apparent that the spindoctor’s defense strategy was two-layered:

1.) He had fortified himself behind a well-protected defensive wall;

2.) From behind his protective shell, Mr. Okonkwo had assembled an impressive array of offensive artillery pieces which he lobbed with precise accuracy.

“Were you guys really surprised by the international reaction to Ken Saro-Wiwa’s death, or is it all part of the grand deception?” I asked him.

“You guys,” the spin-doctor fumed. “Whom are you referring to as ‘you guys?'”

I’ve determined to go in with all guns blazing and was not intimidated by Mr. Okonkwo’s menacing countenance. “I am referring to the butcher of Abuja, General Abacha, and you guys who support him?”

“The Butcher of Abuja,” The spindoctor’s curled his mouth into an angry snarl, “Is that how you refer to your president and the leader of your country?”

“That is the term used to describe the Nigeria leader in local papers here. I didn’t invent it. Since I have no say in choosing Abacha, you can hardly refer to him as my president. ”

Mr. Okonkwo’s face registered profound anger. “I am not going to sit and listen to all these insults being hurled at the president of the greatest country in Africa,”

“‘Greatest country in Africa,’ I sneered, “what makes yours the greatest country in Africa?”

“Since when have you stopped being one of us, or why are you referring to Nigeria as ‘yours?’ Demography alone makes us the greatest country in Africa. Not to mention our other positive attributes.”

“Spin-doctor,” I cried, “I guess that you guys are hallucinating in Abuja. Positive attributes, like murdering Ken? Demography alone does not confer greatness. Greatness is something to be earned. If we have to use your concocted parameters, China and India should be the greatest countries in the world. We know that they are not even considered the greatest in Asia. You and the gang of butchers you represent should know that your hallucinating minds are like that of the proverbial boy who, having never been to another farm, thought his father’s farm is the biggest. You might consider yourself the greatest, but right now, the majority of mankind consider you dwarfs, midgets, Lilliputians. By the way, you didn’t answer my question.”

“Which was?” Mr. Okonkwo’s tone was bristling with hostility.

“Which was were you guys really surprised or were you just posturing?”

“Posturing?” the spin-doctor boomed in anger, “why should we be posturing?”

“That’s not the question. The question is why are you guys surprised at your humiliating suspension? You don’t imagine for a moment that other members of the organization would like to sit down in the same room with people whose hands are literally dripping with the blood of an internationally-renown personality like Ken Saro-Wiwa?”

“That is not fair. Members of the Nigerian delegation were not the executioners. We felt really let down.” Mr. Okonkwo’s voice was anguished.

“Your logic appears twisted. They are not the executioners, you said, but they are representing a country which has just viciously murdered nine of its citizens, including one of its finest writers. In the eyes of many people, anyone connected with the Abacha’s regime is guilty of murdering Ken Saro-Wiwa.”

“Why do you keep referring to murder, murder. Murder suggest an extra-judicial killing. No one was murdered. Your friend, Ken Saro-Wiwa, was tried by a competent judicial authority, found guilty and killed. You keep on jabbering about murder.”

“You’re tagging me with a mantle I am not qualified to carry. I was only faintly acquainted with Ken, so I’m not privileged to count myself among his numerous friends. As for your competent judicial authority, my question to you is whether you’ll like to be tried by such a competent judicial authority. Or whether you’ll like a member of your own family to be tried by a Kangaroo court whose judgment cannot be appealed. This is the crux of the matter. Put your official mask aside and step into reality.”

The spin-doctor eyed me warily, he was doing his best to defend those he was paid to defend. It was very clear, however, that his bureaucratic mind was waging a war against his human conscience. “I didn’t commit murder.” He managed to say.

“That is really beside the point. One of the most elementary principles of civilized society is that citizens should be subjected to a Rule of Law. Transgressors against laws should be dragged before a competent and duly constituted judicial body, whose independence must not only be real but also apparent. Ken was tried by a Tribunal set up by a martial fiat. A tribunal whose judgment supersedes the Supreme Court can hardly be described as a competent judicial body…”

Mr. Okonkwo cut me short with a savage outburst, “We don’t see you bleeding-hearts shedding crocodile tears when the U.S.A. barbarically murdered its own citizens. Electric chairs, lethal injections are some of the methods used by the country that hollers the loudest about ‘Human Rights,’ we don’t see the Mandelas and the Majors leading campaign to suspend the U.S.A. from the United Nations or other world bodies. Don’t you see the hypocrisy? Have you asked yourself how many people have been killed in God’s own country this year alone? Right now, a Black-American journalist is languishing in jail, awaiting execution. Why don’t you guys see the hypocrisy and why are you joining the orchestrated chorus against your own country?” The spin-doctor rambled.

“Orchestrated chorus, orchestrated by whom. For your information, patriotism is not for me a matter of ‘My Country, right or wrong.’ I cannot find myself defending a government waging a virtual war on its own citizens. You guys really need reality-therapy if you don’t understand the raw anger felt by those appalled by the fiendish murder of Ken and the eight other activists. The Mandelas and the Majors did their best to shield you guys from international condemnation, but like the proverbial dog destined to get lost, you didn’t hear the hunter’s whistle. You guys managed the impossible: you ruffled Nelson Mandela. He did everything possible to hold the fort for Nigeria. The timing especially, don’t you think that Abacha should shoot those who so badly misadvised him?”

Mr. Okonkwo curled his lips into an angry growl, “‘Holding the fort for us, you said. I guess your memory is short if it ever existed.” He snapped. ” Are you unaware of the heavy financial, political and diplomatic capital Nigeria invested in the Liberation struggles of South Africa? And what is more shocking to us is the attitude of President Mugabe. Nigeria did everything possible to win independence for Zimbabwe. We felt abandoned and betrayed that those we help at their direst hour of need abandoned us when we need them the most. Our boys are dying bringing peace to Liberia. There are Nigerian troops dying to defend the territorial integrity of Sierra Leone, and that country joined those voting to suspend us. That, to us, is the zenith of ingratitude. These are the reasons we felt abandoned by those we considered traditional friends. It is not fair.”

“You should stop sulking. You have no one but yourself to blame. You should have invested a little of the energies you’re expending on helping other nations to solve their own problem in putting your own house in order. You cannot play a fire-brigade while your own house is afire. Abacha has managed the almost unthinkable – turning Nigeria into a pariah state. I am old enough to remember the days of Joe Garba when Nigeria was a major world player. Are you guys oblivious to the sorry levels the country has sunk in the eyes of the world? The countries you helped are now enjoying large measures of political stability, an item in short supply in Nigeria today”

“Stability, ah, ah, ah..” the spin-doctor laughed. “I guessed you’re not reading your international papers. Is Zimbabwe stable? Is South Africa stable? At least we’re the still the master of our own destiny. We are not ja-baasing any lunatic from Europe. We have no ax to grind with anyone, but let us those sententious hypocrites condemning us to bare their own cupboards. The British government, its hands dripping with the blood of Irish fighters is condemning Nigeria. Funny world, isn’t it?” The spin-doctor fulminated with anger.

“What are you going to do now. Your accounts have been blocked. The World Bank has canceled its support for a major project. The EU has slapped an arms embargo against you. The US is leading action to embargo your oil. You’re in a fix ain’t you?”

The spin-doctor shook his head sadly. “Look, Femi, I’ve credited you with far much intelligence. I don’t want to get personal, but I’m very much disappointed in you. Here you walked in insulting our president. And now, a man of your education believes everything he read in the paper. How many times have the EU announced an arms embargo against Nigeria? Things are not always what they seemed, most especially in diplomacy.”

“Don’t you think that you need a sign-writer?”

“A sign-writer, what the hell for?” Mr. Okonkwo boomed.

“You’re still sporting a ‘High Commission’ on your door. Since you’ve been suspended from the Commonwealth, don’t you think is time to change it to ‘Embassy?'”

“Get out of the bush.” The spin-doctor said and laughed uproariously.



About the Author 

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and ModernGhana, and Correspondent for the New African magazine, Femi lives in both Europe and Africa and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the Man and Machine Coordinator at Alaye Dot Biz Limited, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organization that specializes in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

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