Nigeria; Between the Present Administration and Dagon Experience

JEROME-MARIO UTOMI

JEROME-MARIO UTOMI

After about seven years of unfulfilled change, coupled with the prevailing harsh economic situation in the country, a state of depression (or is it a recession) and heightened insecurity, If there is any account that perfectly captures the Nigerian situation under the present administration, it is no other than, a Biblical account recorded in the book of 1 Samuel 5; verses 1 to 12.

It reads; after the Philistines had captured in ‘victory’ the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, who had fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.

That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold. The LORD’s hand was heavy upon the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation upon them and afflicted them with tumors. When the men of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy upon us and upon Dagon our god.” So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, “What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?”

They answered, “Have the ark of the god of Israel move to Gath.” So they moved the ark of the God of Israel. But after they had moved it, the LORD’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors.  So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. As the ark of God was entering Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.” So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.” For death had filled the city with panic; God’s hand was very heavy upon it.  Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.

Essentially, like the Philistines who rejoiced at the capture of the ark of God, majority of Nigerians, at the declaration of the 2015 presidential election result rejoiced at the outcome without giving a thought to what the future holds. And that celebrated victory has today become the greatest undoing for Nigeria and Nigerians. Death resulting from insecurity propelled by terrorism, banditry and kidnappings had filled the city with panic; those who are yet to die are afflicted with socioeconomic tumors, and poverty induced outcries are loud and un-abating in the society.

More specifically, I remember now with nostalgia how a friend amidst the euphoria triggered by the 2019 Presidential election victory, cautioned me with these few words; ‘’men will change their ruler expecting to fare better; this expectation induces them to take up arm against him, but they only deceive themselves, and they learn from experience that they have made matters worse’. Still, in that milieu, I had reminded him that the result ushered in a season of integrity in the country, he again replied thus; no single attribute could be identified as a ‘virtue’.

Remember!  He added, ‘Politics has its own rules’. Today I cannot categorically say that my friend was right or wrong in his prediction. But the present instinct in the country explains two things; first, apart from the fact that the shout of integrity which hitherto rend the nation’s political space has like light faded, jeer has since overtaken the cheers of political performance while fears has displaced reason -resulting in an entirely separate set of consequences – irrational hatred and division.

While there is presently little left to build on, as Life in Nigeria, quoting Thomas hobbs, has become nasty, brutish, and short, the pains of Nigerians under the present administration have been heightened by reasons that comes in double folds. One, the realization that the nation is still being governed by people who do not feel the pinch the common man is made to endure, or that the leaders have simply chosen to be compassionate by proxy. It has become a political sphere dotted with cynicism.

Secondly, even as Nigeria and Nigerians diminish socially and economically, the privileged political class continues to flourish in obscene splendor as they pillage and ravage the resources of our country at will. This malfeasance at all levels of governance has led to the destruction of social infrastructure relevant to a meaningful and acceptable level of social existence for our people. Adequate investment in this area, it has been shown, is clearly not the priority of those in power.

Nigerians have within this space discovered that in the true sense of the words, not all open doors are indeed open.

It can, therefore, be safely deduced that different strata, sectors, and sections of the country will be looking up to 2023 as a year to settle various scores – both idealistically and holistically.  The new orientation would be shaped by recent fiscal, sociological, political and communal happenings in the country; coupled with the pockets of ethno-religious upheavals and misgivings from one region against another or powerful personalities against each other. As political leaders have fractured our nation’s geography into polarised ethnosyncrasies and idiosyncrasies, all of which have led to agitations of different sorts and capacities. These have disjointed the amalgams of the country and made the nation that was once called The Giant of Africa now be referred to by friends and foes as a wobbling tripod.

The lesson/responsibility inherent comes in double folds.

First and very fundamental, like the Philistines who called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, “What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?, Nigerians must  on their part ask; what outcome are they expecting from the 2023 general election? How can we make it most rewarding? And how can such electoral exercise be converted to a formidable vehicle for building the Nigeria of our dreams?

In like manner, the year will be pregnant with high hopes and necessitates the need for electorates to develop an objectified oneness as well as an action plan that will aid ‘taking whole’. It’s a year for the masses and youths, in particular, to team up and fight the common enemy called bad leadership and its proponents.  This role is pivotal because the strength of a nation is a direct result of the strength of her leaders. Everything rise and falls on leadership. This remark is visibly evident in the qualities of leaders the nation have unfortunately blessed her selves with since May 1999. The result of these political miscalculations led us to rhizomes of excuses thereby turning the country into a nation of rhetoric than action. The score cards of the present crop of leaders have visibly advertised them as being clueless, lacking in creativity and outright lack of propensity to perform.

To therefore, arrive at the Nigeria of our dreams, the people need the moral force to activate a shift in paradigm. Part of this needed strategy is for all to internalize the global new awareness that for an honest government to emerge, candidates must not need large sums to get elected as it is capped with the capacity to trigger off the circle of corruption. For having spent a lot of money to get elected, winners must recover their costs and possibly accumulate funds for the next election as the system is self-perpetuating.

In line with the above, enthroning upright personalities as our leaders is important as leadership is about vision and is also about creating a climate where the truth is heard and brutal force confronted. We obviously need to take this step as we have previously seen some of our elected officers become the reality to worry about.

Until this ‘Ark of Challenge called bad leadership’ is removed from our shoulders, the running of our country’s economy will continue to go against the provisions of our constitution which stipulates forcefully that the commanding heights of the economy must not be concentrated in the hands of few people, Nigerians will continue to cry like the Philistines and their god ‘dagon’ experienced thousands of years ago.

 

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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