FASCISM ON COURSE
By Prof Wole Soyinka
It would appear that a record discharge of toxic sludge from our notorious smut factory is currently clogging the streets and sewers of the Republic of Liars. It goes to prove the point that provoked the avalanche EXACTLY! The seeds of incipient fascism in the political arena have evidently matured. A climate of fear is being generated. The refusal to entertain corrective criticism, even differing perspectives of the same position has become a badge of honour and certificate of commitment. What is at stake, ultimately is – Truth, and at a most elementary level of social regulation: when you are party to a conflict, you do not attempt to intimidate the arbiter, attempt to dictate the outcome, or impugn, without credible cause, his or her neutrality even before hearing has commenced. That is a ground rule of just proceeding. Short of this, Truth remains permanently elusive.
The ensuing cacophony has been truly bewildering. It strikes me as a possible ploy to smother recent provocations by other, far more trenchant issues, such as revelations of declarations of a religious war. If so, let it be known that I have long declared war against religious fundamentalism, the nature of which justifies the butchery, kidnapping and enslavement of students in the name of religion. That aspirant’s alleged gaffe cuts no ice with me. Far more alarming was the grotesque fantasy of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court disguised as a wheelchair, zooming off in space to a secret meeting with other parties of the conflict. On its own, that is sufficiently scary. Swiftly followed thereafter by a television tirade of intimidation, it strikes one as more than the mere antics by the mentally deranged. The tactics are familiar: ridicule, incriminate, then intimidate. Objective: undermine the structure of justice .Just as a reminder: this writer was not being rhetorical when he declared, on exiting prison detention: Justice is the first condition of humanity.
The instigating contest – Nigerian Democracy 2023 – has witnessed much that is innovative – largely in the retrogressive vein. Violence and ethnic profiling. “Spiritual” warfare in the shape of sacrificial rams to keep “disloyal” communities under restraint – in short, intimidation yet again! Easily overlooked however are those missives of violence directed against dissenting voices, real or suspect. Such, for instance, were the virulent attacks and threats to the musician Seun Kuti, his family and iconic music Shrine. His crime consisted of nothing more than declaring the name “Obidient” derogatory to his sense of civic dignity and activist history. Such beginnings – and instances are numerous – have culminated in the open intimidation of the Court of Last Resort, even before proceedings have begun. By the way, I do agree with Seun Kuti; ‘Obidients’ is one of the most repulsive, off-putting concoctions I ever encountered in any political arena. Some love it however, and this is what freedom is about. Choice. Taste. Free emotions. By contrast, I have no quarrel with “Yes Daddy”. Roman Catholics are used to saying “Yes, Father”. Secularists say “Enh, Baba”. The context and content are what matters, and lies – where established – raise bothersome issues such as Integrity Deficiency.
Let us remind ourselves of the following: in any adjudication, society finds it unacceptable that a party to the dispute resort to influencing tactics by extra-judicial means – such as bribery. Intimidation and threats are merely the obverse complements of material inducement. Those who fail to appreciate this are entirely free to their existence in an illusory world.
We shall add the following pointer for this particular electoral tussle – the news may be unpleasant, but here it comes.
Quite a few pundits have set out in some impressive – not necessarily persuasive – detail the- possibility that the complainants in this presidential election are not as strongly planted on the victory podium as they presume – see, for instance – Ambassador Haastrup’s fascinating analysis in Newspeak etc. April 6. Right or wrong? That is not the issue. What the nations needs to know right now is if you are planning to send assassins after such negative analysts.! Coming to terms with an unpalatable projected eventuality – sorry – possible eventuality, counsels deep reflection, not demonization of the bearer of sour news. For the seriously committed, it requires pulling back the horns a little in order to regroup, rethink and resurge. Democracy is sometimes a long haul. Some of us have been at it for quite a while
I am well aware that the foregoing is further invitation for more nauseous bilge from the besotted. Please, be my guest. It is, after all, one of those special seasons of convergence of two seasons of self-flagellation. Fasting makes bearers of constricted minds even more light-headed. Delusions fill the vacuum.
Oh yes, could these rabid parochial minds of easy excitation also kindly stop flattering themselves that one’s energies are consecrated solely to the nation space known as `Nigeria? The whines of “silence” are relative to the reading scope and world knowledge of idle complainants as well as their grasp of the chain of continuity. I choose my methods of intervention without the permission of social media border patrols, so where you find a gap, just pick up the baton where last deposited and stop whining and belly-aching – “he stopped talking all this while, why now?” etc etc ad nauseum . Flat, easy disposable lies that gain traction by repetition. However, even more importantly, they remain irrelevant to the rights and wrongs of ongoing material issue. Sadly, these virtue vigilantes succeed with the ignorant and susceptible – especially among the younger, confused generation. The consequence is that the nation is plagued by fake CVs compiled by all kinds of amateur commentators, still wet behind the ears, who have too few truths to build on before they are corralled into positions of No-Retreat. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the effrontery of attempts to place the present contention on the same podium as the twenty-year old anti-Abacha struggle! This gross abuse of historic licence actually provides smug satisfaction for rookie activists. I advise them to seek out the school of survivors where pertinent lessons still exist for those with sufficient humility to LEARN before MOUTHING! Otherwise their world of false mythologies will collapse under their feet, and leave them dangling in the void.
May I cease this opportunity, by the way, to condemn the sanctions imposed on CHANNELS Television which anchored the performance of the LP candidate. As stated, I watched the programme keenly – saw the valiant efforts of the interviewer to ensure fair hearing. I fail to understand just where the station could be faulted, except from a disposition for injustice. To sustain that penalty is to give joy to others who turn Internet into a soakaway for their rancid emissions, yet feel that others should be silenced. If CHANNELS feels up to it, I offer myself willing to engage Mr. Datti – or any nominee of his – on its platform on this very bone of contention – one-on-one – without the malodorous intervention of media trolls, and with the same interviewer as mediator. That should be taken as a serious offer.
Project NIGERIA, I must confess, has become near terminally soul-searing. Do I still believe in it? I am no longer certain but – first, we must rid ourselves of the tyranny of the ignorant and the opportunism of time-servers. In any case, there is not much else to engage one on a foundation of ownership stakes.
There is of course, always the possibility of a Revolution, with a clarity of purpose and acceptance of all attendant risks, including costly errors. Revolutions are not however based on the impetus of speculative power entitlement. No matter, until that moment, the structures that ensure just and equitable cohabitation must be protected from partisan appropriation – be it from material inducement, fake news, or verbal terrorism – the last being the contribution of one who is positioned to assume co-leadership of the nation, no less. Revolution is not about lining up behind the nearest available symbol. When a symbol does emerge however, we are still obliged to examine every aspect of what is fortuitously on offer, and continue to guard our freedoms every inch of the way.
Before I take myself off for – well, next port of call – the final word goes to a favourite maverick, propagated even as he matched his words by action. I suspect that in this instance we find ourselves on opposite sides of the strategic fence – that is democracy. This now coopted watchword of his formulation remains apt, applicable to all who strive for authentic social transformation: Your mumu don do!
Ramadan Kareem. Happy Easter!