By Paul Onomuakpokpo
An impediment to the quest for the full return of history to schools is our fear of excavating the seamy past of our heroes. We want history to be returned to our schools so that we can learn about our past and its avatars and draw some useful lessons for an effective response to our contemporary challenges. But we are trapped in the tragic paradox of the fear of being confronted with the foibles and peccadilloes of the past heroes who shaped our history. This paradox is amply expressed in the warning not to speak ill of the dead.
We are even forbidden from speaking ill of the living. Fawn on the living, credit them with the virtues they are crassly bereft of and there would not be any problems. But attempt to draw attention to their less than stellar qualities and a kerfuffle is provoked. There is a grimmer possibility of this if the subjects are public office holders. They would deploy all their might to teach the daring offenders the lessons that they should not traduce a big Nigerian. With the complicity of the police, they would throw them into jail where they would be forgotten.
It is in this context that we can situate the developments around the rumoured death of President Muhammadu Buhari. To be sure, it is wrong to wish anybody dead. For neither do we have the power to take the life of someone we did not create nor know when that person would die. Again, we are reminded of Michel de Montaigne’s warning that we should not consider anyone happy until his death. In other words, no human being, no matter his or her station in life is immune from the storms and tempests of life. Thus, we must not be deterred from discussing the rumoured death of the president and appropriating some useful lessons from it. After all, other leaders like Nnamdi Azikiwe were said to have died while they were still alive. Even in Zimbabwe, there have been many rumours of death about Life President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe who is amused at the rumours has quipped that he has resurrected more often than Jesus Christ. And just recently, one Pastor Patrick Mugadza prophesied that the 92-year-old Mugabe would die on October 17, 2017. And unsurprisingly, Mugadza has been taken to court. But the joke is on Mugabe as Mugadza’s lawyer has said that the pastor was only relaying a message from God and the police had to prove that God is not its originator.
The reactions of Nigerians to the rumoured death of the president are a mix of genuine shock and barefaced humbug. How dare malevolent persons claim that the president is dead? hollered some. If our president had reacted like this to the recurrent wastage of lives in the country, we would have disincentivised the propensity for willful killing by fellow citizens or through government neglect. We glimpse our president’s lack of respect for human life through his protection of those who allegedly stole the money meant for starving and sexually exploited internally displaced persons. Obviously, these lives are not as precious as the president’s. This is why despite the outrage at the sleaze of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Lawal Babachir, Buhari is begging the Senate to allow him to stay in office.
If the president loved other Nigerians as he loves himself, there would have been better health services. The president would have equipped all the hospitals under his care and made them to function optimally. The staff of government hospitals would have been well treated so that they would not go on strike for months and allow the poor citizens who cannot afford private medical treatment to die. For it is because the president loves his life that he often goes overseas at the slightest threat to his health.
How much does the president really care about the lives of the citizens when he allows them to be slaughtered by herdsmen in southern Kaduna and in other places? Or are those being killed less human than the president? The sense of urgency the president demonstrates in rushing overseas whenever he is sick should have been shown to tackle the crises that have triggered the killings by herdsmen. Or the president values cows more than the citizens’ lives. This is why he can watch as religious bigotry is claiming lives and hundreds of citizens are dying daily because of his mismanagement of the economy. Some are dying out of starvation while others are being wasted by diseases and taking their own lives out of frustrations. Still, others are wasted on our neglected roads and transportation system.
Since the president’s neglect and complicity have made life worthless in this country, some citizens were unabashed as they rejoiced at the rumour of his death. They did not see the vacuum that his death would have created in the polity. Rather, they saw his possible death as what was needed for the development of the country. This is where the importance of being rumoured dead lies. It affords one the opportunity to know how much positive impact one has made on others’ lives. No one wishes dead a person who has been of help to one. They only wish dead a person who is like a plague to them.
As long as our society continues to fail to put in place measures to make life liveable for the citizens, they may not sympthise with any leader who is rumoured or actually dead. In this regard, the president and his friends do not need to curse anybody who wished him dead. What the friends of the president should do is to get all the reactions of the citizens to his rumoured death. Using these reactions, let him weigh himself on a scale and see how much the citizens think he has served them. After this, the president should reinvent himself and plunge himself into the pursuit of those policies and projects that would make life meaningful to all. He could start by acknowledging that he understands the importance of good health to himself and the rest of the citizens. He should vow to equip the public hospitals in the country in such a way that he and other citizens would not need to go overseas for treatment.
If the president does not have confidence in the nation’s institutions how does he expect other citizens to do that? It is because of this lack of trust in our public institutions that is making our leaders to send their children to schools overseas while destroying the ones at home. Yet, we want the citizens to believe that their leaders are serving them and when they are rumoured dead they should only mourn and not rejoice. With the president now knowing clearly how poorly he is rated by those he claims to be working for, we really hope he would return home with better health and renewed vigour to serve the citizens and bequeath memorable legacies to the nation.
By Paul Onomuakpokpo
Source : http://www.ngrguardiannews.com
The Guardian (Nigeria)