Opinion: Only The Truth Can Set Nigeria Free! By Ayo Oyoze Baje
‘’Truth crushed to earth
Shall rise again.
The eternal years of God are hers.
But error, wounded, writhes with pain
And dies amongst his worshippers
-William Cullen Bryant
From the pre-independence period, through the years of parliamentary rule traversing the series of military jackboot dictatorships up till the current self-serving governance cloaked as a pseudo-democracy, Nigeria’s political trajectory has been replete with the recurring battle between the forces of darkness and light; of falsehood and of truth. But no matter how long it might seem, how tortuous the path has been for the beacon bearers, light has always triumphed over darkness.
For instance, back in 1946 nationalists such as Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamidi Azikiwe, Dr. Olorun-Nimbe, Michael Imoudu, A. O. Omage and Oged Macaulay (Herbert’s son) embarked on a nation-wide tour. They wanted to obtain the mandate of Nigerians and solicit for funds to send a delegation to London. The noble and patriotic aim was to protest against the Governor Richard Constitution and ‘’the obnoxious bills which sought to degrade Nigerian chiefs to imperialist marionettes under the use of ‘Indirect Rule’ and alienate the people’s land and minerals to the British Crown.’’
As aptly captured by Mokwugo Okoye in his eye-opening masterpiece of enduring history of Nigeria ‘Storms on the Niger’, ‘’wild enthusiasm met them everywhere they went and at the end of December, 1946 they had bagged £13,481 for their mission’’. By then the NCNC boasted of a robust council membership of some 180 organizations, tribal unions, youth and cultural associations that represented 6 million Nigerians. Though Macaulay died in the course of the struggle and Zik took over the headship of the NCNC, the battle against indirect rule as well as land grabbing by the colonialists was eventually won.
If perhaps, 75 years after those historic protests, you as a Nigerian citizen still cannot understand the firm positions of Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue state, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state and Nyesom Wike of Rivers state against open-cattle grazing by Fulani herders, you need to go back to study Nigeria’s intriguing history. And if you are still at sea as to the patriots’ rage against the controversial RUGA in the 21st Century Nigeria; against those being hounded and hunted out of their homeland by foreign armed bandits, you need to understand where we are coming from as a people. And of course, where some political leaders with ‘vaulting ambitions’, (according to William Shakespeare) are planning to take us to, regardless of how many innocent lives are lost! But the voice of Truth has to stand up and say ‘’no!’’ against all their intimidation and might-is-right.
That brings to the public sphere the recent vexations of Gov. Ortom on the state of gross insecurity in the country. He stated with uncommon candour that: ‘’Nigerians are being kidnapped for ransom, raped, maimed and killed in their hundreds and Buhari’s government has no coherent response… Life has become worthless under Buhari’s watch and he must be called out because the bucnbk stops at his table.’’
As expected, the presidency is outraged by his audacity to speak the truth to power. Even some of his people in Benue state that has long been turned into one of Nigeria’s killing fields is calling him names; that he has crossed the boundary of verbal decency. But the burning question remains: Has Ortom said it as it is, or is he fabricating lies? The answer, sad to say, is right before us all.
If we consider Ortom’s onslaught against the Fulani race as inciting sheer tribal bigotry, how do we describe the threat by the Emir of Muri, Abbas Tafida, a Fulani man who gave a 30-day ultimatum to the bandits to leave the forests? They were once given entry to the lush green lands for cattle rearing but turned them into the theatre of the absurd. That is, for acts of rape of defenceless women, kidnapping for ransom and killings of fellow Fulani men and women. But that is not all.
How do we explain the scary scenario of Katsina, the home state of Mister President that has become so unsafe that Governor Bello Masari has declared the closure of some highways, markets and routes to some border villages? With all due respect, this is the same state governor who has openly supported amnesty for terrorists and whose photographs with some of their fully armed members went viral on the social media! He has in recent times praised President as the best Nigeria ever had. But on the other hand he is currently calling on his kinsmen to arm themselves to the teeth to battle the insurgents and bandits! We may need another definition of contradictions.
That brings to mind the pertinent question: Why is everyone afraid to tell the president the truth, bitter as it may taste? Rather, some of his ardent supporters, erroneously equate his interests to that of the nation. They even see him as a saint- as the man who never does any wrong. They praise him to the highest heavens! But the wise ones say that: ‘’ a true friend is that person who would tell you the truth at the risk of losing your friendship’’. So, where are those friends as at this day? If they exist they should remind him that my people say that, ‘’a leader is like a dustbin and should be ready to accommodate every debris’’.
Similarly, truth is like bitter leaf. It may taste bitter at the first bite but sweet when thoroughly chewed and swallowed. The other cause for concern is why the presidency is always quick to say ‘’no’’ to every criticism. Is a leader not meant to have a listening ear so as to serve the public good? Should a leader claim to know it all? Of course, not. Besides, we are under a democratic dispensation, or supposed to be practising one.
It has therefore, become imperative for us all to learn from the hands of Nigeria’s history as all those who have at one time or the other raised their voices of reason against colonialism, military dictatorship and even the self-serving pseudo-democracy that we currently practice eventually emerge on the good side of history, no matter the trials and tribulations they faced.
Name them: The Eyo Itas, Herbert Macaulays, Nnamidi Azikiwes, Ernest Okolis, Olu Alakijas, Obafemi Awolowos, Margaret Ekpos, Fumilayo Ransom-Kutis, Afrobeat music icon, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the legal luminary and acclaimed Voice of the Masses, Gani Fawenhimi and Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka faced one form of brutal attack or the other from the-powers-that-be in their campaigns for governance for the people. But they all came out as the heroes of the people and on the glorious side of history.
So, whether the alleged Fulanization agenda is real or mere figment of some people’s imagination, time will certainly tell and soon too. The battle between right and wrong, between darkness and light and between truth and lies may rage for some time but as the Holy Bible admonishes us, we should know the Truth for only the Truth will set Nigerians free!