We've killed Uncle Bola

By Jonathan Elendu

Special to USAfricaonline.com
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There have been signs that this Christmas would be a bad one for the average Nigerian. We knew our country was yet again going through another Yuletide of hopelessness, joblessness, and the "chop and quench" mentality of our elected officials. All indices showed that many families would not have enough food for the Christmas, many children would have to mend their clothes, while the lucky ones would have "okirika" for the celebrations. Many families in Nigeria will drink water and scrape, or beg for food this Christmas while members of the Nigerian National Assembly will go home with bags full of money as they receive their car loans and end of year largesse. It is a familiar road for us - the common people of Nigeria.

Never could we have imagined that this season will be a time for assassinations and mindless destruction. It is happening in the Yoruba southwest of Nigeria. Starting with the assassination of a member of the State House of Assembly, Odunayo Olagbaju. His assassination is believed to have been a fall out of the bad blood existing between the Osun State Governor, Bisi Akande and his deputy, Iyiola Omisore. In mid-December 2001 supporters of both men had a free-for-all fight at the State House Assembly. Charms, guns, and machetes were freely used by both sides.

The latest victim in the wave of assassinations sweeping Nigeria is Bola Ige, Minister for Justice and Attorney-General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Uncle Bola, as he was fondly called, was a man, who even those who did not like him (and they were very few), respected him for his intellect, dexterity, and integrity.

A former high school teacher, Bola Ige, 71, climbed the ladder of politics and law to become one of the most successful political leaders of the Yoruba people. He was an accomplished lawyer who reached the pinnacle in the practice of law and was admitted to the elite group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria--the highest professional honor that can be bestowed on a lawyer in Nigeria. Ige saw himself as the political heir of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo. He set out to achieve what his mentor could not achieve - the Presidency of Nigeria, but was denied the opportunity of running for the office by his party, the Alliance for Democracy.

In an article earlier in the year, I had stated that though I had been on at least two flights with Uncle Bola Ige, I did not know him personally but those who knew him very well attest to the fact that his integrity is without question. From Commissioner for Agriculture in 1967 in the then Western State of Nigeria to the Executive Governor of Oyo State in 1979, Ige displayed transparency and honesty in his public life. He was jailed in 1983 by the repressive and draconian Buhari-Idiagbon regime for enriching his political party. Nobody could accuse him of using his office to enrich himself.

The few times I saw Bola Ige, he did not appear to me to be a flamboyant man. However, his eloquence with words and his power of oratory earned him the nick name, the Cicero of Esa Oke. He was poised to make history as the first attorney general in Nigeria to take the entire thirty-six states, which comprise the Nigerian Republic, to court over the ever contentious issue of resource control. This action marked him as a man who believed in the rule of law and trusted democratic institutions to work for the benefit of the entire citizenry. During the Jesse Jackson love child scandal,

I had said in an article, Silencing Jesse Jackson, that: "I have long wondered why the American society spends time and money to build a man up only to later destroy him. It is like a rancher feeding his cows good grass and expensive hormones to fatten the animal so as to realize good meat when slaughtered. As a matter of consequence, top athletes, musicians, politicians, judges, priests and people of all professions have been destroyed in this inferno of morbid curiosity." It is my considered opinion that Nigeria has copied this negative aspect of the American culture.

Characteristically, we have taken it a diabolical step further. We build people up and we slaughter them. There is an interesting irony that has emerged from the Nigerian political system. Under military rule, the government pursues and assassinates people with whom they disagree. (Revelations at the Oputa panel and the trial of Al Mustafa and company at the Lagos High Court supports this claim).

When civilians are in power, we the people pursue and assassinate people whom we do not like, or those who hold different views. Both behaviors are sad commentaries on our level of development as a people. It is indicative of the fact that despite our claim to being one of the most literate societies in Africa, the most religious, the most traveled, the most visible, and the 'so-called' giant of Africa, most of us still reason at a level below that of an animal.

We destroy what we can neither possess, nor change. Since we cannot possess other people's views or conscience, we kill them. We desecrate their homes and murder them in the most gruesome manner, no matter how well-respected or highly placed.

We killed Kudirat Abiola, Alfred Rewane, Musa Yardua, Moshood Abiola and countless others. Now we have added Uncle Bola to that list. A few days ago I decided to go for a ride because I could not sleep. I kept driving on the highway until there were no cars in sight. I looked at my dashboard clock and the time was 2 a.m.

The road was lonely, yet I was not afraid to be out by myself at that time of the day. I had nothing to fear. I wondered if I could do that in Nigeria now. I couldn't do that when I lived in Nigeria. I wondered why we could not move about freely in our own country, at any time of the day or night, without fear of being robbed or killed. It made me sad to think I come from a land that has little regard for peoples' lives and their property. We kill for any and all kinds of reasons.

We kill in the name of religion, money, sex, land, property, politics, party, tribe, and ego. We just kill. And we have killed Uncle Bola. Anarchy may be knocking on our doors, soon, especially in the Yoruba southwest of Nigeria.
Elendu is a contributing editor and columnist of USAfricaonline.com

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