By Uche Anichukwu
Once upon a time, the tortoise gathered his children to test their wisdom. The question was simple: How many times would something happen to you before you learn? The eldest one said thrice. The father landed him a hard knock on the head. The other said twice. Another said that just once was enough. But it was the youngest, who answered that he would learn from other people’s mistakes.
In 1962, the Premier of the Western Region, Chief Ladoke Akintola and Chief Obafemi Awolowo were enmeshed in a political showdown, leading to the split of the Action Group, AG. A Vote of No Confidence was slammed on Akintola, leading to a serious fracas on the floor of the Western Region House of Assembly. AG also expelled Akintola. Governor of the Western Region, Sir Adesoji Aderemi, demanded Akintola’s resignation and named Alhaji Dauda Adegbenro as his successor. More political upheaval followed, earning the region the “Wild, Wild, West” appellation.
The Prime Minister, Belewa, declared a state of emergency in the region and appointed his cabinet Minister of Health, Dr. Moses Majekudonmi, as the Administrator on June 29, 1962. It didn’t go down well with the AG (which was also the federal opposition) and Awo’s followers, who had always accused the Sir Abubakar Tafawa Belewa-led federal government of playing the drum to which Akintola was dancing. Awolowo was arrested in 1963, tried, and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for what many believed were trumped up charges of treason/coup plotting.
Then came the highly divisive, ethnicised, and tensed 1964 federal elections, which was won by the Balewa-Akintola alliance against the Nnamdi Azikiwe and imprisoned Awolowo, other’s United Progressive Grand Alliance amidst allegations of massive rigging, thuggery, and abuse of federal powers.
To cut a long story short, there was an escalation of violence in the Western Region, better known as Operation Wetie, coupled with the 1965 Western House of Assembly election. The military boys from every part of the country led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu struck. It was branded an Igbo coup, resulting in the pogroms against Ndigbo. A 30-month civil war ensued. The fire, which started from a corner of the house, eventually conflagrated the entire building. That is exactly Ekweremadu’s point: A fire that brings down a building usually starts from one corner. You don’t wait till then to put it off.
We also know the story of the Second Republic- the political madness, arson, brigandage, impunity, abuse of executive powers, and persecution of the opposition at all levels, coupled with corruption. The military struck again. From buying snuff, the military strayed into the heart of the market for about 16 years and took Nigeria 100 years backwards.
Against this backdrop, you would wonder why anybody would find fault or twist Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s warning that we have again taken the same route, which end is a ditch. Ordinarily, one wouldn’t expect a child whose mother was killed by a poisonous mushroom to play with mushroom. A man stung by a bee, takes to his heels on sighting a big housefly. A man, whose father was killed by a buffalo, does not drink palm wine from a buffalo’s horn.
The Senator spoke during the debate on a motion by Senator Salau Ogembe (PDP, Kogi Central) on the violence visited on his empowerment programme for his constituency by political thugs allegedly sponsored by his state government with the complicity of the police.
His exact words: “The problem in Nigeria now is that our democracy is receding and the international community needs to know this. Who says that the military cannot take over in Nigeria? So, Let us not joke with our democracy the way they are going.
“Two weeks ago, we were talking about how Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi’s house was destroyed in Kaduna State. Recently, we were talking about how Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso was stopped from going to his state. We saw people carrying clubs, waiting for him at the airport. We were talking about how security operatives laid siege on Senator Dino Melaye.
“In Kaduna, Senator Shehu Sani cannot organise a meeting and we say that we are practicing democracy.
“The international community needs to know this because they helped us to restore our democracy and some gang of people are trying to truncate the entire democracy”.
In the midst of dire security challenges, especially in the light of the recently abducted 110 Dapchi girls, who could have imagined that the Defence Headquarters would be preoccupied with Ekweremadu’s statement, which it even admitted was cautionary?
Then came the likes of Sam Omatseye, who went as far as calling the Senator names and Rotimi Fasan, who preferred to vent his bitterness over Ekweremadu’s appointment as Professor of Strategic Government Studies by the Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA, rather than fault the Senator’s points. It is needless to badmouth them in return, for if you chase, stark naked, after a mentally unstable man, who runs away with your clothes while taking your bath in the river, people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference because you have descended to his level.
To the overwhelming majority of Nigerians, a passenger, who cautions the reckless driver of a passenger-filled bus he is travelling in to slow down, is not calling for an accident. He is actually trying to prevent one. But some people, the few like Omatseye and Fasan would rather blame the cautious passenger because they helped to hire the reckless driver.
Let me close with this story about the palm beetle, which drank so much from the palm wine tapper’s keg. Drunk, he threw caution to the wind and landed from the palm top. The cockerel rushed at him and struck. The stunned beetle turned to the cockerel and said: “My good friend, when did this new hostility start?” The cockerel smiled and said: “My dear, we were friends as long as you played by the rule, staying up there and out of trouble. But now, how can I resist this tempting, sumptuous meal?” With a jab, the beetle ended up in the cockerel’s intestine.
The wise learns from other people’s mistakes, but the simpleton prefers to live in a fool’s paradise, refusing to learn even from his past mistakes.
Anichukwu writes from Abuja