“There is God oo”, she lamented that fateful night of April 14th, 2014, calling on the heavens to bear witness to the innocence of her husband’s government in the kidnap of two hundred and seventy six guiltless, non-partisan school girls whose only connection to the perpetrators was that they were considered pawns and cannon fodders in the ongoing anti-insurgency war in the country. As an unconvinced, incredulous, faithless and angry nation watched the antics and theatrics of the country`s first lady holding a bizarre panel or court of inquiry on national television, the travails of the first lady, Patience Goodluck Jonathan was all too apparent as she wrung her hands agitatedly, her headscarf wrongly skewed on her head. She constantly made reference to the ubiquitousness of the all-powerful, all knowing and all seeing God almighty who presides over the affairs of men, regardless of the various dispositions and actions of the human person in the evolution of human history. “There is God oo” she wailed again as she felt the noose tightening around her husband’s government with this latest despicable act of human roguery and knavery that had just taken place in the town of Chibok, northeast of Nigeria.
Nigerians were none too pleased with this recourse for a solution to divinity for a tragedy that had all the trappings of human perfidy and evil by the terrorists, and incompetence and mismanagement by the government of the day. Indeed the performance of the first lady that day told all the story that needed to be told – the PDP government was a goner. For Nigerians, that singular act of taking over the job of the military, DSS and police by the first lady was such a monumental manifestation of all the failings of the Nigerian state led by Dr Ebele Jonathan Goodluck. The APC, the party-in-waiting was beside itself with joy at the opportunity that had been delivered to its lap. The party apparatchik rose and spoke in unison pointing out that the Chibok tragedy was one more reason why the PDP government had to go, to be replaced by a government that is truly committed to all things truly Nigerian. In return, they promised to replace the failures of the PDP by turning around the economy and to step up the anti-corruption war. To do that they said, the question of the atrocities of the Boko-Haram had to be content with. The kidnap of the Chibok girls, happening at a time the country was losing territories to the insurgents was one more pain too much for an agonized and traumatized nation.
But in the midst of such manifest embarrassment that 14th night of April 2014, very few Nigerians were in the mood to validate or give an opinion on the authenticity or otherwise of the first lady`s postulations about the innocence of the PDP government over the disappearance of the Chibok girls. Very few Nigerians were ready to acknowledge even grudgingly, that Patience Jonathan could actually be in a state of psychological turmoil over the audacity of the Chibok act and the resultant “sharing”(shedding) of innocent blood. Such was the anger of Nigerians towards the real and perceived failures of the PDP government, fueled by the massive propaganda machinery of the APC that the first lady’s open insinuation of a grand conspiracy and conspirators buried deep in the labyrinth of the Nigerian political system and working against her husband did not receive the sympathy of the majority of the Nigerian people. Even if they had believed her wailings and tears, surely it was of no consequence as the government in which she held court as the first lady had a constitutional and moral duty to keep the citizens safe – a duty the government had obviously failed at.
Today, against the backdrop of the latest Dapchi girls national disaster, it becomes imperative to relive the tragi-comedy of the former first lady as she grappled with the Chibok debacle. While she grabbed at straws, looking for futile answers, most Nigerians failed to notice that her recourse to heaven for justice and punishment for the evildoers was an acknowledgement that there were forces within the Nigerian political space that were more powerful than the government of the entire Nigerian nation. The contradictions of the Nigerian state ensured and ensures that Nigeria remained and remains at the mercy of this group of people who are more powerful than the Nigerian state regardless of the presence and might of the country`s security forces. Since the constitution, the country`s primary body of laws did not envisage and endorse an extra-constitutional body of clandestine but very powerful people that exercised extra-constitutional but illegal and treasonable powers, Nigerians rightly rejected Patience Goodluck`s conspiracy theories. Consequently, as with all things that have a beginning and an end, in the fullness of time the elections came and went and President Goodluck Jonathan and his PDP government became history.
Fast forward three years later and we are on a familiar path again. In fairness to the APC, if there is one thing they have learnt from the PDP, it is to never operate at the same level as the PDP in perfidy. And just when we were beginning to believe that the likes of the PDP would never again assail and afflict our collective sensibility in our country in the way and manner they had done, along comes the APC with a bigger blight and yoke. In just three years of governance, the PDP government of Goodluck Jonathan is beginning to look like amateurs compared to the APC`s professional erosion of public confidence in governance. The propaganda, truths and falsehoods that first propelled the party to an overwhelming, unbelievable and unprecedented success in the 2015 polls have run their cause. The party, however, seems to be oblivious to the fact that the use of propaganda in “wartime” is different from that of “peacetime”. They have been found out but continue to live in a fool’s paradise, oblivious to the changes happening all around. They have even succeeded in living the lies of Hitler`s minister of war propaganda, Goebbels, that if you repeat a lie long enough, you will begin to believe such lies. It is typical of the country`s dominant political class. They have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. Surely the man, whoever he was, that claimed that “the more things change, the more they remain the same” could not have been referring specifically to Nigeria. Even if he meant for the statement to have a universal application, the Nigerian situation must surely mark him out as a great prophet and seer in the mode and tradition of the great Dr Tunji Braithwaite and Fela Anikulapo Kuti who decades ago, had predicted the nature, character and temperament of the Nigeria of the future.
The nature and tactics of the Dapchi kidnap of 110 innocent girls under the Buhari administration follows the same pattern of execution as that of the Chibok girls under the Jonathan Administration. In spite of the different era of “change” with a “different” political party and actors at the centre, we are having the same toxic and obnoxious outputs and products. Just as it is said that “soldier come, soldier, go, the barrack remains the same” so it is with the change of political parties and political actors without a change of the socio-economic system that generates, nurtures and sustains one of the worst groups of politicians that could be unleashed on any nation. What reasonable explanation can the Buhari led APC government give on the kidnap of 110 Dapchi girls that would mark the government out as fundamentally different from the last administration? What can they possibly tell us to convince us that Patience Jonathan’s insinuation of the existence of a conspiracy deep in the bowels of the Nigerian government then and now is false?- a conspiracy nurtured and fueled by very powerful people and forces in and out of government. The truth must be told that the Nigerian state was captured by a very small and mafia-like group of people aeons ago. This state capture is responsible for the consistently convoluted crises ridden administrations that have superimposed themselves on the Nigerian people all these years, breeding hunger, insecurity and the near collapse of the Nigerian state. There can be no lasting peace, no meaningful progress and no better life worthy of living for the Nigerian people until the plague that continues to haunt and hound our people is finally confronted, confounded, and destroyed.
Lastly, if not that the lives of a 110 innocent children were at stake, one would have cheerily declared of the APC government that “what is good for the goose is good for the gander. One would have added that “what goes around comes around” and challenged them to “remove the logs from their eyes first before telling others to remove the speck from theirs”. But we cannot because we want our girls brought back to us safe and sound.
As we mourn the death of innocence in the lives of 110 members of our future generation, we cannot help but wonder if three years ago, the former first lady cried out of a sense of injustice and pain or out of political expediency. But either way, the present unfortunate scenario brings once more to the fore, that immortal statement of the great Zik of Africa that “No condition is permanent”. It reinforces once more, that general belief that no one, no group, no nation, no matter how powerful controls all the variables of life. Indeed God presides over the affairs of man in the evolution of human history.
There is God ooo.
Achike Chude, a human rights activist and writer lives in Lagos.