Why is it that our retired army generals, especially those who fought in the civil war, always have a sense of entitlement towards Nigeria? They more or less see Nigeria as an estate that would have perished, but for their bravery and gallantry. And thus, they are entitled to anything and everything Nigeria can offer. Even if it is not offered willingly, they appropriate such with force.
This sense of entitlement has bred both benevolent and brutal dictatorships. In Yakubu Gowon and Murtala Muhammed, Nigerians got the former, while in Abacha they got the latter. Insidiously, the retired generals’ sense of entitlement has affected our psychology as a people. Thus in 1999, the only person we thought could hold Nigeria together was a retired army general – Olusegun Obasanjo. In doing that we almost got our fingers burnt. He eventually loomed larger than all of our institutions. His was an imperial presidency that brooked no opposition.
His government regarded our written constitution as one might a novela written by one drunken author and as such, should be disregarded as much as possible. Thus, against the spirit of the constitution, it was possible for five out of thirty lawmakers to impeach a governor. It was equally possible to annihilate a whole community through collective punishment for the sins of a few.
He was so powerful he gave us a very sick man as his successor. He single-handedly equally chose his successor’s deputy, with said deputy eventually becoming another president. In fact, this lord of the manor has succeeded in giving us three presidents. Some now regard him as the father of the country, forgetting that it is this country that picked him up as a nobody, nurtured and trained him and gave him opportunities in life.
We have been dealt with so viciously as a people that we do not have any belief in ourselves. The generals have consistently and continuously in a derogative manner referred to us as “bloody civilians” who cannot be trusted with the estate they salvaged with their lives. Thus again, in 2015, we nostalgically voted for a strong man, whose antecedents, were it to be in a civilised clime, would have earned him a life ban from holding public office.
But then, this is Nigeria.
I am sure Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the late Afrobeat legend will be turning endlessly in his grave. He sang poignantly and satirically about Buhari – “no be outside Buhari dey, na craze man be dat o, animal in human skin.”
Why was Fela so bitter? He was at the receiving end of Buhari’s high-handedness. He was jailed through a manipulated judicial process for possessing hard currency he legally earned. Now the General is seemingly fighting corruption. While surrounding himself with corrupt noise-makers.
Who else can rule Nigeria as a sole administrator for six months but a retired army general with a sense of entitlement? Under his watch, an institution like INEC in which many people were beginning to see the hope of a new Nigeria, has changed cataclysmically and has become the champion of inconclusive elections. We are being reminded daily that we might have made a mistake in bringing the retired general back. For now, the country lacks any credible economic policy – no fuel, no electricity and no national budget.
The biggest rent seekers are equally these retired army generals. Majority of current oil mining leases (oil blocks) were allocated by the retired generals for the benefits of the generals and their cronies. One of them a few years back made a billion dollars from an oil block arbitrarily allocated to him. I am made to understand that most those leases are due for renewal soon. It would thus have been an abomination for a bloody civilian to be in Aso Rock Villa as president when these leases expire.
While retired army generals continue to control and appropriate our common patrimony, serving army generals are clothed in a halo of impunity. We have as a people accepted our fate that the only sane and practical thing we can do to save ourselves is to avoid the mad dogs. El Zak Zaky must have suffered a temporary amnesia to have ‘confronted’ a chief of army staff. A thousand souls were “travelled” for that ‘impudence’ and the Shiite cleric must still be hoping that he is having a bad dream.
How does this affect us as “bloody civilians”? It simply means we are second class citizens in our country in any issue the retired generals and army are involved with. Even the “bloody civilians” who are in government now must know they are not in the same class as the generals. For now, our country belongs to the retired generals and the army. So sad.
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