Things don’t just sprout; they first take roots. – Mother A’Endu
Oh master, take my infirm hands, and lead me first to know myself. – Mother A’Endu [adapted from] The Rites of War and Peace.
Dr. Reuben Abati is a master of the formal essay and not even the gods may challenge him on that. Apart from his writerly skills, Abati has a history. He is an initiate of the fraternal order, which has ruled or misruled this country. So, what he says is important, not just for the strength of his analysis but also for the ‘‘pillow talk’’ confidences he may throw about.
Thus, when he wrote about books and the Abuja ruling class, he dropped a few eye witness insights. One giveaway is that of all his fellow presidential aides under Goodluck Jonathan, only Oronto Douglas, now dead, surfed the intellectual waves like him.
However, his attempt to indict Nigerian politicians for being poor readers is not exactly right. In America, for instance, elected political types such as presidents, are not expected to be wonks or even literate in functional terms. That much is left to cerebral minions like Abati, Condoleezza Rice, etc. The examples of Ronald Reagan and George Bush are pointers. Thus the tales of Singapore and Canada, which he proffered are not the whole stories there are for developed countries. However, it is interesting that at the levels of the elected and their aides, there is little or no reading going in Nigeria. That is to say there can be no development in Nigeria too. Economic development is finally, a mere expression or material projection of a nation’s elite minds, not the sweat of the millions.
Generally, while Abati was right on his reportage of what goes on, his attempt to interpret things gave his work a bad patch. Abati writes; ‘‘Since the politicians took over governance, they stopped worrying about education, reading, research and ideas. We like to blame the military for everything, but ironically, under military rule, things were not this bad. I wrote my Ph.D. thesis in those days visiting a local library in Imo, Abeokuta. It was owned, and managed by the local council as a community library!’’ Nobody comes to Abuja to read by Reuben Abati. This Day, 03-01-17.
Now, what Abati has reported is a bona fide experience, that is the reality as it met his eyes. However, reality, ‘wholemeal reality’ is not self-evident. The reality that is self-evident is the reality that the eyes see. And that is not much, in fact, is too little. Wholemeal reality is like the tale of the iceberg. What is seen is only a tip of what is submerged. And if you are to sail the storms of national development and not be brought down and low like the titanic, the unsinkable Titanic, you must grasp the differences between the reality as is, and the reality as is seen.
The truth is that it was the ‘military’ and more specifically, General Yakubu Gowon and Chief Obafemi Awolowo as aide and affirmer of his principal, Gowon, who studiedly or inadvertently ruined Nigerian education and thus reading.
The general drift is this. Gowon and Awolowo [self-servingly?] misinterpreted the nation state as the highest cultural achievement of man. That is false or forged. Now, a nation is a contrivance like BMW or Keke Marwa. Its aim and purpose is vehicular. A vehicle, however, contrived is not the distance. Its purpose is in doing the kilometres, closing in on the rendezvouses. So, to confound the vehicle for the rendezvous is to show pitiable cultural or historical unknowing, perhaps, ignorance. And that was exactly what Gowon, buoyed by Awolowo accomplished.
It was upon this counterfeiting of values that Gowon and Awolowo exacted their genocidal obsessions on others. [ Our book, How and Why the Yoruba Fought and Lost the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War, has established beyond doubt that it was lexical and other ignorance that drove Gowon and Awolowo to war]. And it was also upon this mistaken order that they plunged the country into Africa’s greatest bloodbath apparently reaping from the lake of blood.
Now, a duo who may kill and sacrifice fellow men, millions of men, to establish a non-civilianising or false order of values, what else won’t they bring to ruin? So, it made sense to them to destroy civilisation, the rendezvous, to save a nation, a mere vehicle. So, with civilisation or rendezvous destroyed, there was to be no growths or deliverances. All that was left was a descent into hell, into barbarisms.
That is, the reign of Gowon was the institution of barbarism as a preserver of the state. So, it came natural to them to destroy education as to preserve Nigeria, a barbarian state. That is, Gowon’s essential logic was that all knowledge was made complete in the duo, he as Supreme Commander and Awolowo as Eternal Sage [?], representing the G2.
And upon this, Gowon aided by Awolowo implanted into Nigeria the infrastructures for the dismantling of all academic, intellectual, artistic and creative orders. These are facts. To give one illustration. We have travelled at considerable costs, asking: Why did Gowon imprison Soyinka in solitary confinement, denying him all tools of civilisation, including books, paper and pencils? Soyinka, excessively brainy, was harmless enough he couldn’t even fire a Kalashnikov. So, why persecute him like he was a diehard terrorist, all through the duration of the war? And this was acceptable to Awolowo and the Yoruba? Or was Soyinka’s alleged imprisonment pure fiction, a fertile production of his dramatic skills? Meanwhile, the examples of civilised states are that even ‘proven’ enemies with Soyinka-like brains are tolerated, a tribute to genius.
Some examples of the treatment of ‘enemies of state’ in civilised jurisdictions may help: Alexander the Great/Ancient Greece on Diogenes. Roman Empire/General Marcellus on Archimedes. Russia/Empress Elizabeth on Mathematical genius, Leonhard Euler. France/Rene Coty on novelist, Jean Genet. America/Eisenhower on Ezra Pound and Von Braun. The point in this is simple. And that is that cultivating and preserving genius is a higher, finer rite, than preserving the state. Without civilising geniuses, the state degenerates into a human or Gowonic abattoir. For example, it is self-evident that since Gowon, there has been no year Nigeria would not sacrifice tons of citizens’ blood to the false gods of nationalism, unity, etc. The point is not to ask what kind of country is it? The question is what kind of ideology are we operating? It is Gowonism.
Now Gowon’s purpose to humiliating Soyinka was to debase intellectualism and Awolowo acquiesced or even approved. That is both Gowon and Awolowo ranked the acquisition of power over and above that of knowledge. [We are not against or for imprisonment of geniuses. We are against the inhuman persecution and exclusion of genius from civilisation].
And we may recall, a few years ago a University of Ibadan don reminisced how Gowon, as dictator, humiliated the entire university system. According to the lecturer, there was a fund raising event and Gowon was around and about. And he scurrilously uncapped the Vice Chancellor only to use that part of his academic robe in utter derision, as a collection bag for donations. And the whole university system kept their peace. The lecturer in his retirement mourned for this in a letter to the The Guardian. And there were several other virulent desecrations instituted by Gowonism against the mind, including the Professor Ade Ajayi saga. Meanwhile, as Gowon was dishonouring the essence of the academia, he was erecting white elephant campuses, to deceive even the very elect.
The historical fact of instituting a tendency, an operating framework, must be understood. That is, Gowonism planted and cultured the Nigerian state, as the nation’s highest cultural achievement. To this framework, all other things, including human blood, destruction of civilisation must be sacrificed. Thus from Gowon to Buhari, Nigeria necessarily suffers a continuous decline into barbarisms. Sometimes, there may be a relapse, but the consequential direction is fixed and immutable.
That is, the time Abati wrote his PhD thesis wasn’t any better in direction, even if it was less in momentum of Gowonic desertification of the Nigerian mind-space. Now, Nigerian bleeding hearts have elected Buhari to approach the Grecian order? But has Buhari repudiated Gowonisms? Has Buhari repudiated the false claims that a nation is the highest achievement of human civilisation? If he has not, then we have bad news for all. The best he can do is what the Russians call The Theory of Small Deeds, TSDs. It’s just to trim the trees to please the eyes, leaving the invasive plants, apologies to our SGS, in bloom.
Thus if anybody, including Abati is interested in Nigerians being readers, which amounts to Nigeria developing, he or she must go back to the origins of the state, the Gowonic Nigerian state. The truth is that Gowon has reengineered us back into barbarism, into our dark ages, perhaps, involuntarily. And if the example of Europe is anything to go by, it may take us 1000 years or days or anything in-between to get out of it. But we must first of all repudiate all false, ignorant and anti-Grecian heroes. They are incompatible with civilisation and development.
To be all inclusive of the facts, it was Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, who first led the Nigerian state towards barbarism. Thus Nigeria’s greatest fortune is that Nzeogwu failed. And next Gowon re-enacted, consolidating on Nzeogwuisms. Thus Nigeria’s greatest tragedy is that Gowon succeeded. That is, the present Nigeria is Gowonism-Awolowoism unfolding as an African tragedy, inevitably. It thus follows that so long as Nigerians take Gowon for a hero, Nigeria is finished and so are her citizens. For Gowon to remain a hero is to confirm that the future of Nigeria will be like the hottest part of hell, with genocide, book burning and disdain for the mind, forever in season.