Nigeria and the yes men of yesterday

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

As Nigeria has gone through one transitionary phase after another, so many men and women of conscience have struggled to hold to the vestigial remains of their consciences. As the extremely unpredictable wind of life has continued to blow hither and thither, many of  those who seemed secure in their skins  have had their nakedness laid bare for all to see.

In 1999, Nigeria`s historic return to the hallowed path of democracy gave the country the opportunity to resume a journey delicately and democratically designed to lead to development, which was however long truncated by the incredible high-handedness of military dictatorships.

With the retracing of national steps back to democracy, there was no longer any need for so many to pretend to promote freedom and democracy while in bed with military dictatorships, or for others to forge hardly deserved reputation out of opposing them.

With Nigeria`s return to democracy, a new vista opened which made it possible for people to associate and work freely, especially in institutions long endangered because they gave a voice to the voiceless. This somewhat newfound safety resulted from the safe knowledge that democracy is a bulwark against many kinds of reprisals.

With the opening of this new vista, the media and the civil society in Nigeria found it easier to operate away from suffocating tyranny. Having practically withered under the brutal military dictatorships of Babangida and Abacha, they began to blossom. They have continued to blossom ever since.

Over the years, men and women from the civil society and the media have contested for and won elections, or have been drawn on the basis of political appointment into the corridors of power.

Journalists, labour leaders, human rights advocates, social activists and all have at different times made the crossover, crossing the battleline drawn by those who consider constructive criticism a necessary condiment in the making of a better society, to the corridors of power.

Those who have crossed the line have attested that in spite of the high perks, pins and needles litter the corridors of power especially for the products of the civil society.

Once the switch is made, the gloves come off and realities change. Suddenly, those for whom the other side was full of nothing but snakes and slime try to expand their perspectives. Those of them who when they were on the other side often crossed the line between constructive criticism and destructive criticism suddenly find themselves struggling mightily to stomach that which they derived so much pleasure in dishing out.

The more loquacious of them have no qualms summoning the other side of their mouths to depart from the previous positions they espoused when they were champions of civil society. Those of them who find their consciences battered but simply cannot leave because the perks are many tell themselves that effecting change is more effective from the inside than outside.

Thus, the transience of life and power usually digs up with it exposure, especially of those who would call others out simply because they coveted the positions of those others.

Some of them, finally exposed for who they really are, when they find themselves outside the corridors of power, having done so little while they were there to improve the system they so strongly railed against, pretend to return to the trenches which they abandoned when they made the ascension to power.

But finding themselves suddenly isolated, considered pariahs by former comrades, they forge new identities, and form themselves into the yesterday`s tribesmen who must now do all they can to discredit those currently in power.

For them, criticism is not just a tool with which to create a better society, it is a sledgehammer with which every nut must be cracked. Their criticism does not pretend to be constructive, instead, it lurches violently and virulently towards the destructive.

The ready writers around them fill up social and mainstream media with articles that abandon every iota of writerly prudence or ethics; their language is usually loud and lacerating, and they would seem to have an opinion about everything.

Those of them who have the gift of the gab grab every speaking opportunity they can get to hurl verbal missiles at those who currently in power.

It is and remains a moral question: What changes overnight? How long does the bridge between what one stood for and what one now stands for measure? What does it take to change positions?

In a country where hypocrisy is as common as headache it is not just those who  live in glass houses that should not throw stones, even those who merely nurse dreams of glass houses should be wildly wary of  projectiles.

Kene Obiezu,

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