President Buhari accompanied by the NSA Major General Babagana Monguno walks through the guard of honour formed by the ‘presidential flutists’
By Remi Oyeyemi
The Indian born British journalist and author, Eric Arthur Blair popularly known as George Orwell was possessed of a fertile mind; and a seminally brilliant one for that matter. He wrote four books, two of which are classics, the Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) andAnimal Farm (1945). While analysts believe that Animal Farm was aimed at the parody that were manifesting in the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin in those heady days, Nineteen Eighty-Four which in the later editions was captioned 1984 “describes official deception, surveillance and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian and authoritarian state.”
George Orwell’s 1984, according to literary critics “is a dystopian novel set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation dictated by a political system euphemistically named English Socialism (or Ingsoc in the government’s invented language, Newspeak) under the control of a privileged elite of the Inner Party, that persecutes individualism and independent thinking as “thoughtcrime”.
In 2016 Nigeria presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, the above paragraph describes the milieu that Nigerians have to contend with. With the searing propaganda engaged in by this Buhari’s administration to shift the focus off of its incompetence, ineptitude, inertia, repeated flouting of court orders, violation of constitution, shrouding of corruption in government, disrespect for the rule of law, the deceit of Nigerians on alleged victory over Boko Haram and the perpetual war against Biafran freedom fighters, one would have thought that Orwell had Nigeria in mind.
An example of “thoughtcrime” as conceptualized by Orwell is the arrest and interrogation of John Danfulani of Kaduna State University for expressing his views about the failures of the Buhari Administration. Another example is Nnamdi Kanu who has been arrested and continued to be detained in violation of the Nigerian courts’ orders and Constitution. Mr. Kanu ‘s crime is his audacity to think of independence for his people from the authorities of Nigerian government. In Kanu’s case, every possible rule subsisting in Nigerian context has been disrespected and disregarded. Those who are celebrating the unlawful incarceration of Mr. Kanu are displaying monumental ignorance. This is because you do not have to like what he stands for before you defend his rights. An injustice to one is an injustice to all, as posited by Martin Luther King Jr.
In this Orwell’s classic 1984, the tyranny is epitomized by Big Brother, the Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality just as Buhari currently enjoys. The Party in Orwell’s 1984 “seeks power entirely for its own sake; just as All Progressives Congress (APC) has just done in Nigeria. As far as The Party is concerned “It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power.” That the APC is in no way different from the Orwellian Party is more than evident to Nigerians who have non-conscripted thinking ability.
In 1984, according to the Free Encyclopedia, “The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party who works for the Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue in Newspeak), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to rewrite past newspaper articles, so that the historical record always supports the party line. The instructions that the workers receive specify the corrections as fixing misquotations and never as what they really are, forgeries and falsifications. A large part of the ministry also actively destroys all documents that have been edited and do not contain the revisions; in this way, no proof exists that the government is lying. Smith is a diligent and skilful worker but secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.”
Taking a cue from the above paragraph, the APC and Buhari have engaged in “propaganda and historical revisionism” since the beginning and lied to the Nigerian youth who were not of age during the first coming of President Buhari as Military Head of State. They also exploited the frustrations of Nigerians fed up with the incompetence and corruption of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. They revised history and lied to Nigerians that Buhari was a “Saint” who was never corrupt. They lied that he had no house in Abuja or elsewhere in Nigeria except in Kastina. They lied that he only lived on the farms and had no other asset outside his cows and sheep in Kastina. They lied that he is a born-again democrat. They deceived Nigerians that he would fight corruption and give Nigeria competent leadership. Nigerians now know better.
In the year 1984, Nigeria was presided over by Muhammadu Buhari. He was assisted by Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon. Buhari’s 1984 was a period most Nigerians would not forget in a hurry. That era was one of the most brutal dictatorships ever witnessed in the history of Nigeria. It was the era of the “Deaf Duo.” Some referred to them as “Dreadful Duo.” Others called them “Deadly Duo.” The duo really brought something new to Nigeria. It was newness to imperious impunity, vicious vendetta, subversion of the judicial system, abuse of human rights, disregard of and for commonsense as well as deliberate disrespect and subversion of truth. Those were the orders of the day.
It was the first time in Nigeria’s History when as the ruler of the country Buhari publicly made a statement that if any journalist wrote the truth and the government did not like that truth, the journalist would go to jail. Yes, it was a promise made by General Buhari. It was a promise made good by sending journalists Tunde Thompson and Ndukar Irabor to jail through the notorious Decree 4 of 1984. It was indeed a return to the medieval mentality of the divine rights of kings!
It was also the first and only time in Nigeria’s History so far, when people queued for “Essential Commodities” such as sugar and milk. Even the obnoxious Shehu Shagari era, to which the dreadful duo put an end did not visit such opprobrium and suffering on Nigerians. For the generality of Nigerians, it was an era of want and need. It was an era of terror and persecution. It was an era of agony and anguish. Nigerians were not only physically abused as soldiers whipped grown men in the streets; they were mentally tortured on regular basis and several Nigerians were detained without trial.
In this year 2016, the 1984 mentality has continued to subsist under the Buhari Administration. Several of the President’s cabinet members have allegations of corruption hanging on their necks, yet the administration is engaged in deceit of Nigerians about a fallacious war on corruption. The President has refused to fully declare his assets publicly despite making a promise to do so during campaign.
Nigeria not only became George Orwell’s 1984, it also became Orwell’s Animal Farm where “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” It was an era when smuggling was a serious crime. Yet it was during the same era when Buhari’s Aide – de- Camp (ADC), Major Mustafa Jokolo helped the then Emir of Gwandu smuggled 53 suit cases through the Nigerian Customs. Yet it was the same era when the Great Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was arrested and sent to jail for having in his possession $10,00.00 allowed under the subsisting law for travel. It was an era when Buhari’s deputy, General Idiagbon took his 14 year-old son to Mecca in violation of their own rule that under age children should not be taken on such journey.
It was a period when some were reminded that they were second class citizens in their own country and as such could not look forward to fair and equitable treatment. That era of the Dreadful Duo was the first time since 1970 when Nigerians realized that the Civil War has not ended. It was an era when the concept of holding an assistant responsible for the actions of the boss who mismanaged and bankrupted the company became an acceptable practice. President Shehu Shagari got to be detained in Presidential Guest House at Ikoyi while his hapless Vice President, Chief Ekweme got to cool his feet at Kirikiri Prisons.
It was also the era when it was discovered that the vanquished of the war, were not the Ndigbo alone. It was found out that all Nigerian were vanquished too. It was an era when your ethnic origin determined your guilt and not your crime. A stainless Pa Adekunle Ajasin tried three times and found not guilty was remanded at Agodi Prisons while Awwal Ibrahim arrested in London Heathrow Airpor for money laundering was remanded in a guest house. He was later tried and convicted of abuse of power and corruption and barred for life from holding public office.
In this year 2016, the 1984 mentality has continued to subsist under the Buhari Administration. Several of the President’s cabinet members have allegations of corruption hanging on their necks, yet the administration is engaged in deceit of Nigerians about a fallacious war on corruption. The President has refused to fully declare his assets publicly despite making a promise to do so during campaign. What we have so far are incomplete disclosures to mislead Nigerians and shut up the critics. Nigerians do not know whether the President has paid his 25 million naira loan that he borrowed to buy the nomination papers of his party.
The president is reneging on so many promises he made during the campaign and he is completely denying ever making some promises to Nigerians. Lai Mohammed insisted that Buhari never promised to pay NGN5,000 to the unemployed in Nigeria! The budget was padded as a means to looting the country’s resources under the nose of the President and yet he went ahead to present it to the National Assembly. It is a government perplexingly engaged in permanent “propaganda and revisionism” to shroud its incompetence, ineptitude, inertia and kleptomania.
This is 2016. Nigeria is now a democracy. Even if it is warped somehow, it is still a democracy. And in a democracy, everyone has the right to express his opinion and ask questions of those who choose of their own volition to be our leaders. So, questions we must ask and answers we must get. Right now everything that Orwell’s 1984 seminally pointed out as undesirable is happening in our authoritarian democracy. We have had the massacre of innocent people in Zaria. We have had the killing of innocent in Onitsha. We are witnessing the decimation of the Agatu people on their land. When would Nigerians get the CHANGE they voted for?
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.” – John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961