When a poet, a soldier and a sailor found themselves in the captain’s cabin on a ship that is adrift, listing inexorably towards the rocks an ultimate disaster, what manner of conversation did they hold?
The soldier it was, who spoke first in his characteristic bombastic manner, blaming the sailor for their predicament. “Boko Haram is not simply a menace based on religion or one directed to frustrate anybody’s political ambition. It is essentially a socio-economic problem that is tainted with religion.
“It is a gargantuan danger to the nation and to all Nigerians. . . (your understanding) of Boko Haram phenomenon suffered from wrong reading and wrong imputation. That is what led us to where we are today,” he said.
The soldier also accused the sailor for his slow approach in tackling Boko Haram, “It took more than three years to appreciate and understand that it is a terrible mix of poor education or lack of education, misinterpretation of what the Quran teaches and stands for, poverty, unemployment, injustice, drug, gun trafficking, human trafficking, fallout from Libya, revenge, frustration, struggle against inequality, imitation of international terrorism leading to training and part of the absorption by international terrorist groups and general poor governance including corruption”.
Clearly frustrated with the fisherman he had dragged by the neck, converted into a sailor and imposed as the captain of the now sinking ship, the soldier hammered on, “For quite some time, the covered and hushed-up corruption has had its toll on the economy. The non – investment in the oil and gas sector by major international oil companies has added its own deleterious impact.
“Our continued heavy dependence on one commodity had not adequately prepared us against any shock in that one commodity in the international plane. With the figure of $78 per barrel as benchmark, we will be in a bind if oil price falls to $75 per barrel.
“In the future, we will have a budget that cannot be funded. We may have to borrow to pay salaries and allowances. Revenue allocation to states and local governments has already drastically reduced. Capital projects at all levels may have to be drastically cut or stopped.”
As the ship listed further, the soldier took another swipe at the sailor, “(We) cannot continue to indulge in disdain of truth, elevation of corruption and incompetence, reinforcement of failure, condoning heinous crimes and celebration of mediocrity, tribal bigotry, fomenting violence and anti – democratic practices in states and National Assembly.”
When it came to the turn of the poet to speak, he also went straight to the point, “I shall not insist that the historical/biblical figure of Nebuchadnezzar is uniquely apt for the pivotal figure of the ‘democratic’ history in the making at this moment – for one thing, Nebuchadnezzar was a nation builder and a warrior.]
“One could argue even more convincingly for the figure of Balthazar, his successor, or indeed Emperor Nero as reference point – you all remember him – the emperor who took to fiddling while Rome was burning. However you should easily recall why I opted for King Nebuchadnezzar – the figure that currently sits on the top of our political pile himself evoked it, albeit in a context that virtuously disclaimed any similarities, even tendencies.”
When it became apparent to the poet that the level of abstraction with which he was speaking seemed too advanced for the soldier and sailor, he decided to speak in more plain terms, “That a national leader should go campaigning on the platform of ethnic support at a time when priorities dictate a united national engagement for survival is a grotesque undertaking that was tragically rebuked in the massacre of worshippers and desecration of the Kano mosques almost simultaneously with the alienated gathering of selected crowned heads.
“Long before Nyanya, long before Chibok, long before the mildest of then now innumerable violations of our basic right to exist as free citizens, the march of a nation towards implosion has dominated the landscape but an obsession with the pettiness of power has obscured remedial vision and thus, the creative options constantly open to prescient leadership.”
Finally, it was the turn of the sailor to speak. But he had nothing to say, so he asked his cabin boy to dismiss the poet as playing the ostrich, saying “The (captain) proves (himself) as the most liberal, keeping faith with adherence to rule of law and tolerance.” He then turned to the soldier, “in terms of performance and achievements, no (captain) since 1960 when Nigeria gained independence . . . as done as much . . . every discerning and unbiased Nigerian would definitely attest to this , as the evidence stare all of us in the face”.
Yes, the evidence stare all of us in the face: insecurity, loss of life on an industrial scale, poverty, unemployment, state sponsored religious divide, hopelessness and the certainty of a watery grave, unless the sailor is removed from the captain’s cabin and the ship of state corrected and stabilized.