Late Nigerian playwright Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not to Blame dramatizes the immutability of fate and the apparent supreme roles of the gods in the lives of mortal men. In the play, King Odewale, no matter how hard he tries, is unable to escape his tragic predestination by numinous supernatural forces. At the end of the play, the title is significantly justified, indeed no one should blame the gods of the land for King Odewale’s tragedy. He kills his father and eventually marries his mother the same way the Ifa oracle had pronounced at his birth.
The gods many times are always right and have proved to possess supernatural ability to see into the seeds of time. However, many times too, the gods lie. This is either because the human agency of their consultation manipulates the divine process and infuse their own self-serving deductions. Many times, too, humans ascribe to themselves supernatural powers and speak in the stead of the gods and when the proclamations fail, the gods are blamed.
The sacrosanct date June 12th, in Nigeria’s political experience has elicited lots of reactions both from within and outside Nigeria. The date has drunk the blood of many Nigerians, the date has altered the destiny of many too, the date has even provoked the gods to speak through various oracular processes and the verdict was that June 12th as a date in Nigeria’s political calendar is history and should be forgotten and buried. Yes, the gods of the land spoke, and humans should not challenge them. June 12th should be buried and forgotten, Nigerians should move on. The sudden death of the two gladiators, MKO Abiola and Sanni Abacha, some people argued, was a true reflection of the divine intervention of the gods, therefore we should wipe our eyes, dust our buttocks and go home, June 12th is history. But, suddenly, June 12th has resurrected, the gods have lied.
Indeed, Nigeria’s political experience is redolent with significant dates which we all celebrate in some ways. Besides our date of independence, October 1st, besides the defining moments of January 15th, 1966, the 12th day of June 1993 occupies the third most symbolic date in the historical annals of our great country. Although there are other dates which can make a good case in Nigeria’s historical journey, they certainly pale into insignificance when compared to the three dates mentioned above.
It is in the attitude of men to always find justification for events by assuring themselves that such event was predestined, it was written in the stars. When such timorous platitude is offered, it has a way of bringing a short-term comfort to the distressed while at the same time encouraging men to look forward, into the future. At the end of the play briefly highlighted above, Aderopo tries to console King Odewale by assuring him that things happened the way they did because the gods wanted them to be so. King Odewale vehemently rejected that assertion and asked people to blame him instead of blaming the gods. By exonerating the gods, the ill-fated king succumbed to their authority and accepted that he played into their hands through his character flaws which led him to kill a man who provoked him. For sure, the gods must have gloated and celebrated in their domain at the King’s demise and forever, the people of Kutuje will continue to hold them in great awe. Not so in Nigeria following the events of June 12th, 1993.
On the 30th of May 2018, I wrote an essay that was published in the Sun Newspaper during the misplaced celebration of May 29th as Nigeria’s day of democracy. Sun Newspaper is a national tabloid noted for non-hysterical, objective reporting. The essay was titled: Democracy day: The dilemma of dates. In that essay, I had argued that June 12th is a more symbolic day of democracy than May 29th and that the federal government should quickly correct the error and make June 12th our official day of democracy. Whether the essay influenced the governments decision to declare June 12th Nigeria’s official day of democracy is a matter of infinite conjecture. Going through the media, I noticed there were other voices calling for the reversal of Nigeria’s day of democracy. In a rare moment of epiphany, the federal government got it right by listening to the voice of reason and declaring June 12th Nigeria’s day of democracy.
Although Muhammadu Buhari’s several economic and political misdirection since he took over as president are well documented, he and his team must be commended for this great decision. Given that former elected presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, both Southerners could not revisit June 12th and restore its sacrosanctity in our historical annals, Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner should be eulogized for this feat. If Buhari was responding to a general outcry for June 12th to be revisited, then he has demonstrated the attitude of a consummate leader who listens and responds to the cries and wishes of his people. In a sense, nothing strengthens power more than its diffusion through the pores of public sensibilities.
Buhari should listen more. He should, in the manner of a compassionate leader, listen to all the grievances in the land and address them without delay. Nigerians and the international community are aghast by the marauding activities of Fulani herdsmen. Those who think that the gods have willed the carnage should immediately visit the nearest balalawo for rites of exorcism. The gods indeed, can lie and have lied many times. Buhari should as a matter of urgency address the issue of the killings of Christians by Fulani herdsmen. Whether his aides tell him the truth or not, it is clear even to mortar and pestle that Nigerians have lost confidence in his administration, but the tide has been beaten back to a reasonable extent with the decision on June 12th.
The gods who declared through their votaries that June 12th was gone and buried lied.
Also, the gods who have declared that the activities of Fulani herdsmen and those murdered in cold blood should be forgotten have also lied. June 12th happened in 1993 and was revisited in 2018. If Buhari fails to revisit the death of many Christians now, indeed it shall be revisited in the future no matter how long it takes. Any god who professes that the activities of the herdsmen and the lives of Nigerians, mostly Christians who died and continue to die has become history is a liar incubating falsehood that will grow to destroy the incubator. Is it possible for Buhari to revisit the injustice of the revenue sharing formula? Is it possible for Buhari to also revisit the monumental marginalization against the people of the South East? Indeed, isn’t it possible for Mr. President to also put the gods to shame by addressing various acts of injustice perpetuated across the land before he came to office? Although my knowledge of most things is limited, I do know that questions are harmless, answers are far reaching and the gods always lie.
Adiele writes from Department of English University of Lagos