Anikura As Political Hero


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Anikura As Political Hero



Segun Gbadegesin




culled from GUARDIAN, February 23, 2006



Many of us may recall the tale of the exploits of a notorious robber in Yorubaland popularised among children and young adults in the 50s. He had his coterie of praise-singers. Even the law enforcement agents feared him, or at least he was able to keep them at bay due to various devices. He was invincible. He was called Anikura. I remember especially one of the popular poems in his honour. "Awon jaguda kekeke l'olopa Ekoo mu, Anikura mbe nile won o lee mu u. Anikura baba omokomo. Anikura olori ole tii da boro. Agba ole a basuwon gbooro" (Meaning Nigeria Police in those days only harassed petty thieves; there is Anikura whom they are unable to touch; Anikura, the father of rascals. Anikura the head of robbers, with an extra long purse). Anikura was lionised; he was invincible, obviously because he was protected by the law enforcement agencies and the powers that be of those days. That was more than a half century ago.

This is a new century and the tale of Anikura is being relived in a different setting with a different twist. Whichever angle we choose to look at it, it takes just a modest reflection to see Anikura as a fitting metaphor for the politics of the Fourth Republic more so than the Second Republic that we rightly thought was politicised beyond reason. Apparently, we aint see nothing yet then. In a particular tragic sense, the political class in Nigeria is constantly perfecting its capacity for absurdity. Clearly, this is not a group that is capable of being embarrassed by its own actions. They suffer from the plague of ailojuti (shamelessness) as our people would say. Thinking that they are unassailable, and bitten by the bug of brute power with its intoxicating venom, they would spare nothing to ensure that the rest of us know who is in charge.


Their catch-word is power, that is, brute power, meaning the power which brutes, not rational beings, would lay claim to and relish. Every time I am treated to the buffoonery that is also known as political dexterity by the powers that be in Nigeria, I feel insulted and humiliated and I am sure I share this mental state with scores of millions of our people. The question, of course, is where is the outrage? And in the absence of any public and collective expression of indignation and condemnation of the Anikuras who degrade our political scene and debase our democratic norms, can we really expect to make progress?

It is a well-known fact that the body goes in the direction of the head. It follows therefore that if the head is lost, the body cannot find its way. We have a head that is mired in self-adulation and self-aggrandizement, and is incapable of seeing beyond the self. Every act, every decision, is therefore influenced by a perception of the self in relation to others, especially those that are perceived to be enemies. It is only a leader without respect for his people or for the rule of law, that would tell the whole world, several times, that some scoundrels confessed to him that they participated in illegalities and he would not only do nothing about it, but would in fact pat them on the back.


What is the point? In the reflections of a true statesman, politics is an intangible part of daily routine, especially after an election has been completed. But, in the mindset of a politrickster, everything is a matter for politicking. It is amazing that a second chance has turned out to be an undeniable disaster for the one who would be messiah. What a disappointment to the innocent believers looking for a redeemer? From the use of the police to brutalise innocent civilians peacefully protesting ridiculous policies and actions, to the aiding and abetting, by providing subtle support for illegalities of state assemblies against presumed political enemies, to the illegal withholding of a state's funds in spite of court ruling and intervention by elders to whom a promise was made, it has been a nightmarish experience of immense proportions for six years. We are capable of enduring this malady and indeed surviving it for another one

year, but certainly no more. And if it becomes clear that anyone would seriously contemplate extending this reign of horror for one minute, we owe it to our need for sanity to rise up against the institutionalisation of civilian dictatorship.


Some have defended this civilian dictatorship by appealing to what they perceive as the economic gains it has produced: debt forgiveness, GSM explosion, foreign reserve stockpile, war against corruption. But look out for the road projects; examine privatisation, and let the world know the whole truth: that it is all a slam. Of course, the anti-corruption crusade should be a great legacy if it is fair and is not marred by allegations that the targets are real or imagined enemies. But assume that all these are truly good ends with no blemish and are worthy of achieving. Would it be justified by the use of any means? Obviously no!

In the warped psyche of presidential sycophants, however, the end justifies the means. Were that to be the case, they ought to address a logical question: why did we struggle to get rid of Abacha? Come to think of it, Abacha did much better in terms of getting the "dividends of dictatorship" to the people: PTF roads, PTF drugs, effective cushioning of the impact of economic policies on the people, etc. So it is rather insulting to reasonable people for anyone to launch a Machiavellian principle in defence of a practice that just doesn't add up.


It cannot be over-emphasised that it is the process, not the outcome that defines democracy and makes it endure. Therefore, a born dictator must be a terrible messenger, indeed a misfit, in the practical pursuit of democratic norms. And, unfortunately, we had enough early warnings from the apostle of a one-party system. This is why some of us cannot really sympathise with those recruiters who facilitated the come-back of an unrepentant dictator only to regret their involvement. What were they thinking?


What is most pathetic about all these is the role that some of our people are playing in this macabre dance of ego. What has become of them? Why have they sold their conscience to the devil? On January 16, 1980, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was a special guest of the Oyo State House of Assembly in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the introduction of free primary education in Western Region. Recall that it was the House in the 1950s that debated and passed a bill for the introduction of universal free primary education and free health care for children below 18. It was that same House in 1950s that worked for the achievement of the many "firsts" for which the Western Region was deservedly celebrated: first TV station in Africa, first Olympic size stadium, first welfare state in Africa, etc. Indeed, it was that House that featured selfless pursuit of truth and freedom, and an enviable demonstration of intellect and dignity. That was a time that the pacesetter label was a badge of honour!


On that day in January 1980, Chief Awolowo said, among other things: "The truth about the people of the Western Region is that they are sufficiently enlightened and bold to refuse to be led by the nose by any person or group however sophisticated such person or group may appear. They are slow to anger, robust in contentions, alert to their rights, and will fearlessly resist and combat evil, whenever and wherever they discern it, with all their might and resources..."

I believe that this is always true of our people and I am assured that in spite of the deliberate efforts of their so-called leaders to dehumanise them, the majority of our people are decent, reflective, conscientious human beings. We were witnesses to their courage and valour in the 60s, 80s and 90s. When the time is ripe, they will take their own destiny in their hands and fight for their rights as dignified human beings. In the fullness of time, the charade will be put to rest and impostors will be put to shame.



Gbadegesin is Professor of Philosophy at Howard University, Washington, DC.



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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.